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Forrest v. Elam

California Court of Appeal
88 Cal. App. 3d 164 (1979)


Facts

Alice Forrest bequeathed to her son Fern Forrest (plaintiff) a parcel of property “for so long as he lives upon the property.” Alice’s will provided that, upon Fern’s removal from the property, or his death, the property would be distributed equally amongst all of her children living at the time. Upon Alice’s death, Fern took his life estate. Thereafter, Fern filed a partition action against his three living siblings (defendants), pursuing the sale of the property and division of the proceeds between the four children according to their respective interests. Fern’s siblings were amenable to selling the property and dividing the interests equally. Fern contended, however, that he should first receive the value of his life estate deducted from the sale proceeds, with the balance then divided equally four ways. The trial court determined that Fern had effectively abandoned his life estate by bringing the partition action, and that at this point, his siblings’ contingent remainder interests vested. The trial court therefore declined to compensate Fern for the value of his life estate, and instead divided the proceeds equally four ways between Fern and his siblings. Fern appealed, arguing that he was entitled to compensation for the value of his life estate because his removal did not happen until the property was sold, and so at the time his interest was to be measured for purposes of the partition action, his life estate was still intact.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gardner, J.)

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