Neves v. Scott
50 U.S. 196 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Neves v. Scott, 50 U.S. 196 (1850)

Neves v. Scott

50 U.S. 196

Syllabus

The rule formerly with regard to the enforcement of marriage articles which created executory trusts was this, namely that chancery would interfere only in favor of one of the parties to the instrument or the issue, or one claiming through them, and not in favor of remote heirs or strangers, though included within the scope of the provisions of the articles. They were regarded as volunteers.

But this rule has in modern times been much relaxed, and may now be stated thus -- that if, from the circumstances under which the marriage articles were entered into by the parties or as collected from the face of the instrument itself, it appears to have been intended that the collateral relatives, in a given event, should take the estate, and a proper limitation to that effect is contained in them, a court of equity will enforce the trust for their benefit.

The following articles show an intention by the parties to include the collateral relatives:

"Articles of agreement made and entered into this 17th day of February, in the year 1810, between John Neves and Catharine Jewell, widow and relict of the late

Page 50 U. S. 197

Thomas Jewell, deceased, all of the state and county aforesaid, are as follows, viz.:"

"Whereas a marriage is shortly to be had and solemnized between the said John Neves and the said Catharine Jewell, widow, as aforesaid, are as follows, to-wit:"

"That all property, both real and personal, which is now, or may hereafter become the right of the said John and Catharine shall remain in common between them, the said husband and wife, during their natural lives, and should the said Catharine become the longest liver, the property to continue hers so long as she shall live, and at her death the estate to be divided between the heirs of her, said Catharine, and the heirs of the said John, share and share alike, agreeable to the distribution laws of this state made and provided. And on the other hand, should the said John become the longest liver, the property to remain in the manner and form as above."

Moreover, these articles are an executed trust, not contemplating any future act, but intended as a final and complete settlement.

Property acquired by either party after the marriage must follow the same direction which is given by the settlement to property held before the marriage, if there is a clause to that effect in the same.

This was the case of a bill filed upon the equity side of that court by William Neves, a citizen of Alabama, and James C. Neves, a citizen of Mississippi, against Scott and Rowell, citizens of Georgia.

The facts were these.

In the year 1810, John Neves and Catharine Jewell, widow of Thomas Jewell, deceased, in contemplation of a marriage shortly to take place between them, executed the following articles of agreement.

"Georgia, Baldwin County"

"Articles of agreement made and entered into this 17 February in the year 1810 between John Neves and Catharine Jewell, widow and relict of the late Thomas Jewell, deceased, all of the state and county aforesaid, are as follows, viz.:"

"Whereas a marriage is shortly to be had and solemnized between the said John Neves and the said Catharine Jewell, widow, as aforesaid, are as follows, to-wit, that all the property, both real and personal, which is now or may hereafter become the right of the said John and Catharine shall remain in common between them, the said husband and wife, during their natural lives, and should the said Catharine become the longest liver, the property to continue hers so long as she shall live, and at her death the estate to be divided between the heirs of the said Catharine and the heirs of the said John, share and share alike, agreeable to the distribution laws of this state made and provided. And on the other hand, should the said John become the longest liver, the property to remain in the manner and form as above."

"In witness whereof, the said John and Catharine hath hereunto

Page 50 U. S. 198

set their hands and affixed their seals the day and year above written."

"JOHN NEVES [L.S.]"

"CATHARINE her X mark. JEWELL [L.S.]"

"Test:"

"CORNELIUS MURPHY"

"JESSE WARD"

The marriage took place soon afterwards.

In October, 1828, John Neves made a will, and shortly thereafter died By this will he directed commissioners to be appointed who should divide his whole estate, both real and personal, equally between his wife, Catharine Neves, and George W. Rowell, to whom he devised his half, and appointed Captain Richard Rowell and Myles Greene his executors.

In a codicil the testator directed that certain real and personal property should be sold for the payment of his debts.

Greene declined to act as executor, but Richard Rowell took out letters testamentary, and was proceeding to sell the property named in the will when Catharine filed a bill against him in the Superior Court of Baldwin County, and obtained an injunction upon him to stay further proceedings. She produced the agreement above mentioned, alleged that under it she was entitled to the whole of the real and personal estate during her natural life, and offered to give security for the payment of all his debts. The result of this suit was that Rowell was allowed the expenses which he had incurred whilst acting as executor, and Catharine gave bond, with security, for the payment of the debts of the estate.

In 1835, Catharine intermarried with William F. Scott, and died in September, 1844.

In February, 1845, William Neves and James C. Neves, the brother and nephew of John Neves, filed their bill in the circuit court. The bill stated the above facts; alleged that after the marriage between Catharine and Scott all the property remained in their joint possession until her death; that Scott was insolvent, and had used a large amount of the money and proceeds of the estate in payment of his debts; stated, as an estoppel, the former judgment of a court in Georgia sustaining Catharine's right upon the ground of the validity of the marriage settlement; charged waste, and prayed for a discovery, and decree that they, the complainants, might be put into possession of one-half of all the property which was owned by John Neves and Catharine Neves. They also made Richard Rowell a defendant.

Page 50 U. S. 199

In April, 1845, the defendants both demurred to the bill.

In April, 1846, the circuit court, then holden by John C. Nicoll, the district Judge, sustained the demurrer, from which decree the complainants appealed to this Court.

Page 50 U. S. 207

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