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Nelson v. Parker

Indiana Supreme Court
687 N.E.2d 187 (Ind. 1997)


Facts

Shortly before his death, Russell Nelson executed a warranty deed stating his intent that, when he died, his property should pass to his son Daniel (plaintiff). The deed also contained the express statement that Daniel’s interest in the property was subject to a life estate held by Irene Parker (defendant), who had lived with Russell for thirteen years prior to his death. After Russell died, Parker remained on the property, and Daniel brought an action to eject her. The trial court granted Parker’s motion for summary judgment. Daniel then appealed, arguing before the court of appeals that the warranty deed improperly reserved an interest to Parker, who was a stranger to the deed. At common law, a grantor could reserve an interest in a deed for himself, but not for any other party, who would be considered a “stranger” to the deed. Daniel cited the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Ogle v. Barker, 68 N.E.2d 550 (1946), which upheld the common law rule. The court of appeals determined that the grantor’s intent would govern in interpreting the deed, and would be determined by the deed’s language and the surrounding circumstances at the time of execution. The court of appeals also noted that the common law rule was developed in feudal times and was no longer relevant. Accordingly, the court of appeals upheld Parker’s life estate. Daniel then appealed to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Boehm, J.)

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