Brown v. Independent Baptist Church
325 Mass. 645, 91 N.E.2d 922 (1950)

  • Converse died. She left some property in life estate to her husband and then to Independent Baptist Church for “as long as they shall maintain their present belief and faith and shall continue the church.” If the church dissolves, then the real estate would be split up equally among the other people named in her will.
    • If the property went back to Converse (or her estate), it would be a reversion, but instead it gave the property to other people. That’s called an executory interest.
  • Independent stopped being a church 90 years after Converse’s death.
  • The Trial Court found that the property was a determinable fee.
    • The property was a fee since it might last forever, but it was not an absolute fee since it might expire automatically upon the occurrence of a stated event.
      • See Restatement of Property ¤44.
    • In addition, the specific gift of the property to others named in Converse’s will was void because it was too remote.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed.
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed that the property was held in determinable fee.
      • The Rule Against Perpetuities says that you can’t bequeath property when that bequest occurs more than 21 years after the death of everybody mentioned in the will.
      • For a determinable fee such as this, the property might never have been taken away from the church, so the Rule Against Perpetuities applies and Converse’s bequest is void.
        • Therefore, no clear title to the property could be given.
    • However, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that the Rule Against Perpetuities does not apply to reversion clauses, so the gift should be assumed to just revert, as opposed to being given to the people holding the executory interests.
      • Therefore, the land should be sold and the money should be given to the estates of the persons named in Converse’s will.
  • Remember, gifts to charities are exempt from the Rule Against Perpetuities. However, in this case, it was the executory interest that caused the violation.