Blocker v. Blocker

Decision Date27 October 1931
PartiesBLOCKER et al. v. BLOCKER.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Commissioners' Decision.

Suit by Nina M. Blocker, a widow, against Hattie Dean Blocker, a widow, and others. From an adverse decree, defendants appeal.

Affirmed.

Syllabus by the Court.

SYLLABUS

Where a remainder of inheritance is limited in contingency by way of use or by devise, the inheritance in the meantime, if not otherwise disposed of, remains in the grantor and his heirs or in the heirs of testator, until the contingency happens to take it out of them.

The general rule, that no person shall be bound by a decree except those who are parties to the controversy in which it was rendered, does not inexorably apply to a case where at the time of the adjudication persons are not in esse who may be affected thereby.

If an estate is vested in persons living, subject only to the contingency that persons may be born who will have an interest therein, the living owners of the estate, for all purposes of any litigation in reference thereto, represent the whole estate and stand, not only for themselves, but also for the persons unborn, and a judgment entered in such litigation binds their interest, if it provides for and protects them, and also if the court determines that they have no interest to be protected.

Where there is a remainder to a class and there are remaindermen of the class in being who are made parties to a cause affecting the property, the decree rendered therein will bind all others who subsequently come into the class.

A court of equity may in proper cases decree partition of lands and preclude after born contingent remaindermen from asserting an interest therein.

In the construction of a will, the intention of the testator as therein expressed shall prevail over all other considerations, if consistent with the principles of law.

It is a rule of the common law that contingent remainders may be defeated, by destroying or determining the particular estate upon which they depend, before the contingency happens whereby they become vested.

The common law is in force in this state except where it is modified by competent governmental authority.

Contingent remainders are destroyed where the particular estate merges in the inheritance either by the act of the particular tenant or by descent to him of the inheritance after the particular estate has taken effect.

A merger takes places when a greater estate and a less meet in one and the same person, in one and the same right, without any intermediate estate; the lesser estate being thereby merged in the greater. Appeal from Circuit Court, Pinellas County; T Frank Hobson, judge.

COUNSEL

J. U. Bethell and Thos. A. Cunniff, both of St Petersburg, for appellants.

John C Blocker, of St. Petersburg, for appellee.

OPINION

DAVIS C.

The complainant in the court below (appellee here) filed her bill of complaint for the partition of certain real estate that belonged to her late husband, John C. Blocker.

She claimed an interest therein under the last will and testament of the deceased, except as to the homestead, and as to the homestead she elected to take a child's part in lieu of dower. Testator was also survived by his son, John C. Blocker, Jr., a daughter, Marguerite Blocker Holmes, and three grandchildren, namely, Samuel T. Johnson, son of Marguerite Blocker Holmes, and Marguerite Ann Blocker and Sallie Mae Blocker, children of John C. Blocker, Jr., and it is alleged that the ages of the grandchildren are ten years, two years, and one year, respectively.

Testator by his will provided for the payment of his debts and funeral expenses, and after deducting the same from his property he bequeathed and devised:

(a) One-third of the remaining property to his widow, the complainant, her heirs and assigns forever.

(b) A life estate in one-third of the remaining property to his grandson Samuel T. Johnson, with remainder to such child or children of said Samuel T. Johnson surviving him, and if not survived by a child or children, then to a nonsectarian orphanage of the state of Florida to be designated by the Governor.

(c) One-half the remaining property to John C. Blocker, Jr., for life, with remainder to such child or children of said John C. Blocker, Jr., as survive him, and if he should not be survived by a child or children then to a nonsectarian orphanage of the state of Florida to be designated by the Governor.

(d) The remainder of the residue of his property to Marguerite Blocker Holmes for life, with remainder to such child or children of the said Marguerite Blocker Holmes as may survive her, and in the event of none, then to any nonsectarian orphanage, of the State of Florida to be designated by the Governor.

There were certain bequests and other provisions of the will not necessary to mention here.

The pleadings and proofs disclose that John C. Blocker, Jr., conveyed his life estate consisting of an undivided one-third of two-thirds of a certain lot of land that belonged to the estate of John C. Blocker, Sr., to one William Ward Hill, and that on the same day, John C. Blocker, Jr., and his wife, and Marguerite Blocker Holmes and her husband, conveyed the said lot in fee simple to the said William Ward Hill.

The last-named deed recited that John C. Blocker Sr., died testate, leaving as his sole heirs, John C. Blocker, Jr., and Marguerite Blocker Holmes; that he devised to John C. Blocker, Jr., for life an undivided one-third of two-thirds interest in the property particularly described therein; that the will created a contingent estate in remainder to the said property and that the reversion in fee did not pass by or through or under the said will but became vested in the said John C. Blocker, Jr., and Marguerite Blocker Holmes; that John C. Blocker, Jr., had on that day conveyed his life estate in the property and that the purpose of the deed was to convey the reversion in fee, whether the said John C. Blocker, Jr., and Marguerite Blocker Holmes were seized of the same as heirs at law of testator or otherwise, jointly and/or severally so that the life estate in the said John C. Blocker, Jr., might be merged in the reversion and the contingent remainders created in the property be destroyed and that the fee-simple title become vested at once in the said William Ward Hill. On the day following the day when the deed to him was executed, the said William Ward Hill executed a deed purporting to convey to John C. Blocker, Jr., in fee simple an undivided one-third of two-thirds interest in said lot. No question of fraud seems to have been raised.

It is agreed by the appellant John C. Blocker, and the guardians ad litem, that there are but two questions of law involved on this appeal, and they are stated as follows:

'1. Has the court jurisdiction to decree partition of lands and bind or preclude the interest of after born contingent remaindermen, who are at the time of partition unknown and cannot be ascertained at the time of partition? (Granted that the court has jurisdiction of all living persons having an interest in and to the lands sought to be partitioned.)
'2. Does a conveyance by a life tenant of his life estate to H. and a conveyance by the owners of the reversioners in fee to H. for the purpose of merging the two estates into a fee simple estate in H., operate in Florida?'

Here, where the residuary devisee only took a life estate limited in contingency with the inheritance undisposed of by the will, the estate in fee simple of an undivided one-third of two-thirds of land in question was limited by way of contingent remainder after the life estate of John C. Blocker, Jr., and the fee descended to Marguerite Blocker Holmes and John C. Blocker, Jr., the heirs of testator, with the inheritance remaining in them until the happening of the contingency that would take it out of them. Arnold v. Wells (Fla.) 131 So. 400.

Under section 4996(3204), Compiled General Laws 1927, a bill may be filed by any one or more of several joint tenants, tenants in common, or coparceners, against their cotenants, coparceners, or others interested in the lands to be divided, and in section 4998(3206), Compiled General Laws 1927, it is provided as follows:

'When the rights and interests or proportions of the complainants are clearly established to the satisfaction of the court, or are undisputed, the court may, by decree, order partition to be made, and the shares, proportions or interests of the complainant or complainants, and such of the defendants as have established and satisfactorily proved their respective shares, interests or proportions, to be set off and allotted to them, leaving for future adjustment (by further proceedings in the same cause) the rights, shares and interests of the other defendants.'

Section 5000(3208), Compiled General Laws 1927, makes provision for the sale of nondevisible real estate.

It is argued here by appellants that a decree is binding only upon those who are parties to the controversy in which it was rendered, and that it follows that the court was without power to enter a decree in the instant case until it can be ascertained who will receive the estate in remainder. Unquestionably the rule invoked by appellants is one that is generally recognized, but it is also held that it 'does not inexorably apply to a case where at the time of the adjudication persons are not in esse who may be affected thereby. If an estate is vested in persons living, subject only to the contingency that persons may be born who will have an interest therein, the living owners of the estate, for all purposes of any litigation in reference thereto, represent the whole estate and stand, not only for themselves, but also...

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13 cases
  • Mosgrove v. Mach
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
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    ...412; Arnold v. Wells, 100 Fla. 1470, 131 So. 400; First Trust, etc., Bank v. Henderson, 101 Fla. 1437, 136 So. 370, 378; Blocker v. Blocker, 103 Fla. 285, 137 So. 249; Byers v. Beddow, 106 Fla. 166, 142 So. 894, 'The intention of the testator is the polar star to guide in the construction o......
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    ...prevent a dissolution of the interest of a beneficiary in a trust merely on the ground that said beneficiary is a minor. Blocker v. Blocker, 103 Fla. 285, 137 So. 249. See, also, Riedlin's Guardian v. Cobb, 1928, 222 Ky. 654, 1 S.W.2d 1071, in which case a trust agreement was executed among......
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    ...estate being thereby merged into the greater. The lesser estate is annihilated or merged into the greater." Blocker v. Blocker, 103 Fla. 285, 294, 137 So. 249, 253 (1931)(quoting Jackson v. Relf, 26 Fla. 465, 8 So. 184)(remaining citation In this case, after the filing of the bankruptcy cas......
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    ...of the life estate and the reversion would destroy the contingent remainder. Bennett v. Morris, 5 Rawle 8 (Pa.1835); Blocker v. Blocker, 103 Fla. 285, 137 So. 249 (1931); Simes and Smith, Law of Future Interest, 2d Ed. § 197 (p. 216); Gray v. Shinn, supra. The doctrine and its applicability......
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