Mewborn v. Mewborn, 317

Decision Date15 January 1954
Docket NumberNo. 317,317
Citation79 S.E.2d 398,239 N.C. 284
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesMEWBORN et al. v. MEWBORN et al.

George W. Edwards, Snow Hills, for appellants.

Wallace & Wallace, Kinston, for appellees.

DENNY, Justice.

The intent of a testator is to be ascertained, if possible, from a consideration of his will from its four corners, and such intent should be given effect unless contrary to some rule of law or at variance with public policy. Coppedge v. Coppedge, 234 N.C. 173, 66 S.E.2d 777; Elmore v. Austin, 232 N.C. 13, 59 S.E.2d 205; House v. House, 231 N.C. 218, 56 S.E.2d 695; Cannon v. Cannon, 225 N.C. 611, 36 S.E.2d 17; Williams v. Rand, 223 N.C. 734, 28 S.E.2d 247; Heyer v. Bulluck, 210 N.C. 321, 186 S.E. 356.

In order to effectuate the intention of the testator, the court may disregard or supply punctuation, as well as transpose words, phrases, or clauses. Even words, phrases, or clauses will be supplied in the construction of a will when the sense of the phrase or clause in question, as collected from the context, manifestly requires it. Coppedge v. Coppedge, supra; Williams v. Rand, supra; Heyer v. Bulluck, supra; Washburn v. Biggerstaff, 195 N.C. 624, 143 S.E. 210; Gordon v. Ehringhaus, 190 N.C. 147, 129 S.E. 187.

'It is very generally held that, where the gift is to several persons for life and at 'their death' to 'their' children, the fact that the phrase 'their death' must be read 'their respective deaths' may warrant the reading of the phrase 'their children' as 'their respective children."' Bool v. Mix, 17 Wend., N.Y., 119, 31 Am.Dec. 285; Annotation 16 A.L.R. 123; 57 Am.Jur., Wills, section 1315, page 870; Horne v. Horne, 181 Va. 685, 26 S.E.2d 80; Cook v. Cook, 292 Ky. 53, 165 S.W.2d 971.

In the case of Horne v. Horne, supra, the Supreme Court of Virginia passed upon a provision in a deed involving the same question posed on this appeal. The deed dated 2 May, 1903, executed by R. R. Horne and wife, reserved a life estate in themselves in the lands involved and conveyed remainders therein for life to their sons, George R. Horne and C. R. Horne, with remainders after their deaths 'to their lawful children'. [ 181 Va. 685, 26 S.E.2d 85.] C. R. Horne died 15 April, 1930, leaving four children. George R. Horne died without issue on 19 August, 1941. The court held that "the words 'their children,' when employed in gifts of future estates after life estates given to two or more brothers or sisters with remainder 'to their children,' invariably means to 'their respective children' * * *.' ' Whereupon, the Court affirmed the ruling of the lower court to the effect that George R. Horne having died without issue, the portion of the estate conveyed to him for life reverted to the estate of the original grantor.

In the instant case, the testator not only contemplated an equal division of the devised tracts of land between his sons George Washington Mewborn and Paul Hodges Mewborn, but he directed that upon the death of his wife the lands should be so divided. Therefore, upon the death of the testator they became tenants in common for life in the devised lands, subject to the life estate of their mother, Mary M. Mewborn.

Ordinarily where the will or deed creates life tenancies in common, it is held to indicate an intent on the part of the testator or grantor that the remainders shall pass per stirpes and not per capita. Horne v. Horne, supra; 57 Am.Jur., Wills, section 1315, page 870; Annotations, 16 A.L.R. 17; 78 A.L.R. 1387; 126 A.L.R. 159; 13...

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13 cases
  • Clayton v. Burch
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 29 Enero 1954
    ...inaccuracies, especially where the will is written by an unlearned person. Bell v. Thurston, 214 N.C. 231, 199 S.E. 93; Mewborn v. Mewborn, N.C., 79 S.E.2d 398. To carry out the testator's intent it is apparent that the words in the will 'if not then if my Grand Sound Silus Daynel Clayton i......
  • Griffin v. Springer
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 9 Mayo 1956
    ...of Nona Nelme, respectively, for the all sufficient reason that no child can possibly be the child of both sisters. Mewborn v. Mewborn, 239 N.C. 284, 79 S.E.2d 398; Horne v. Horne, 181 Va. 685, 26 S.E.2d 80; Annotation, 16 A.L.R. The plaintiffs contend that, pursuant to the provisions of G.......
  • Entwistle v. Covington
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 20 Mayo 1959
    ...Wachovia Bank & Trust Co. v. Taliaferro, 246 N.C. 121, 97 S.E.2d 776; Barton v. Campbell, 245 N.C. 395, 95 S.E.2d 914; Mewborn v. Mewborn, 239 N.C. 284, 79 S.E.2d 398; Gatling v. Gatling, 239 N.C. 215, 79 S.E.2d 466; Branch Banking & Trust Co. v. Whitfield, 238 N.C. 69, 76 S.E.2d 334; House......
  • McCain v. Womble, 295
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 24 Noviembre 1965
    ...223 N.C. 734, 28 S.E.2d 247; House v. House, 231 N.C. 218, 56 S.E.2d 695; Elmore v. Austin, 232 N.C. 13, 59 S.E.2d 205; Mewborn v. Mewborn, 239 N.C. 284, 79 S.E.2d 398; Clark v. Connor, 253 N.C. 515, 117 S.E.2d 465; Strong's North Carolina Index, Vol. IV, Wills, § 27, page 502, et In the ca......
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