WA Legal Roundup: Division III
Ah, the rule against perpetuities raises its ugly head. Albert devised his real property to Kennewick Public Hospital (KPH) so long as the property was never transferred, encumbered, or otherwise alienated. If the contingency was breached, then the land would vest to Benton County. The remainder of Albert’s estate was left to his sister, his niece, and his nephew. Albert died in 1961. Albert’s niece died in the 1980s and she left her estate to the Diocese of Olympia.
In 2006, KPH sued to quiet title in the property. Benton County waived any interest in the property. The court entered default judgments against all defendants except the Diocese. KPH and the Diocese filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to KPH concluding that KPH held the property in fee simple absolute.
Both parties agreed that the executory interest of the County violated Washington’s rule against perpetuities and was therefore void. The Diocese argued that since this interest was void, once KPH violated the terms against transfer of the property, the residuary clause in the will kicked in and the property would vest back to Albert’s niece and thus to the Diocese (fee simple determinable). KPH argued that the devise was an attempt at an estate subject to executory limitation and when the limitation was struck, a fee simple absolute remained. Since Albert’s will had no wording that would suggest that the property would “revert” back, Division III held that the estate was a fee simple subject to a executory limitation and when the limitation failed KPH was left with fee simple absolute. Ah, brings back memories of Professor Weaver’s classes.