Bowen v. Chase
94 U.S. 812 (1876)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowen v. Chase, 94 U.S. 812 (1876)

Bowen v. Chase

94 U.S. 812

Syllabus

1. A trust, created in order to give a married woman the separate and exclusive use of land, free from the control of her husband, will be sustained; by converting it into a legal estate, its purpose would be defeated, as, by virtue of his marital rights, the land would be placed under his control. So held, in regard to the effect of certain conveyances of land in New York, set out in the opinion of the Court, which were executed in 1827 and 1828 to Michael Werckmeister by Stephen Jumel, upon certain trusts which limited a life estate to the separate use of Eliza Brown Jumel, his wife, with a general power of appointment during her lifetime, and, on failure to make such appointment, to her heirs in fee simple.

Page 94 U. S. 813

2. After the date of those conveyances, the said Eliza, by deed bearing date Nov. 21, 1828, duly executed, as required by the trust, made an appointment of the land in the following words, to-wit:

"Now I, the said Eliza Brown Jumel, do hereby direct, order, limit, and appoint that, immediately after my demise, the said Michael Werckmeister, or his heirs, convey all and singular the said above-described premises to such person or persons, and to such uses and purposes, as I, the said Eliza Brown Jumel, shall, by my last will and testament, under my hand, and executed in the presence of two or more witnesses, designate and appoint, and, for want thereof, then that he convey the same to my husband, Stephen Jumel, in case he be living, for and during his natural life, subject to an annuity, to be charged thereon, during his said natural life, of six hundred dollars, payable to Mary Jumel Bownes, and, after the death of my said husband, or in case he shall not survive me, then, immediately after my own death, to her, the said Mary Jumel Bownes and her heirs in fee."

Held that, after the termination of said Eliza's separate interest for life, the appointment limited the equitable estate in the land, and vested in said Stephen and Mary immediate interests, although they did not take effect in possession until the death of said Eliza, and were subject to be defeated by the exercise of her reserved power of disposing of the land by her last will and testament.

3. The effect of the chapter of the Revised Statutes of New York, touching uses and trusts (1 Rev.Stat. 727), which went into operation Jan. 1, 1830, upon the estates created by the trust and appointment, considered, but in the view taken by the court of this case, it is not material whether they were, by the statute, turned into legal estates, or remained, as they were originally, merely equitable in their nature.

4. The appointment in favor of said Mary was a voluntary one, and as said Eliza had a power to lease and a power to convey, assure, and dispose, which latter power manifestly includes a power to sell, not only by the terms used, but, in this trust, by the direction as to the disposition of the purchase money "in case of an absolute sale," sales of the land to actual purchasers for a valuable consideration were effectual, and superseded the prior appointment in favor of said Mary. It was not necessary to their validity that said Eliza, in making that appointment, should have expressly reserved a power of revocation.

5. Where the subsequent appointments were voluntary, or intended merely as means of restoring the property to its original trusts, or of revesting it absolutely in said Eliza, the interest of said Mary, whether it be regarded as a legal or an equitable estate, would not be thereby displaced.

6. Certain appointments, subsequent to that in favor of said Mary made by said Eliza, who survived her husband and died intestate in 1865, declared to be voluntary, and for the purpose of revesting the title in said Eliza. Bowen, claiming to be her sole heir-at-law, has brought sundry actions of ejectment to recover the land. Said Mary died intestate in 1843. The appellees are in possession of the land, and claim, as her heirs-at-law, under the appointment in her favor. Held that they are entitled to relief in a court of equity. If their estate is to be regarded as still an equitable one, their right to such relief is undoubted, no matter where, or in whom, the legal estate may be. If, by virtue of the statute, their equitable estate was converted into a legal

Page 94 U. S. 814

estate, they have good cause to come into that court for the purpose of removing the cloud upon their title created by the subsequent voluntary appointments and conveyances.

7. That the evidence is merely voluminous or tedious is not sufficient cause for removing a case from a court of law to a court of equity.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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