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Williams v. Estate of Williams

Supreme Court of Tennessee
865 S.W.2d 3 (1993)


The will of G.A. Williams (Williams) granted a joint lifetime interest in Williams’s farm to his three unmarried daughters, including Ethel Williams (plaintiff). Williams was survived by nine children, including Etta Tallent (defendant), who received no interest in the farm under the will. The will was written using legal phrases. The will explained that Williams’s three unmarried daughters had received an interest in the farm because they had stayed home and taken care of their ill mother, and Williams did not want them to lose the farm. The will also provided that the farm could not be sold during any of the sisters’ lifetimes, that each sister’s interest would cease and pass to her remaining sisters upon her marriage, and that anyone who contested the will would be debarred from an interest in Williams’s estate. None of the sisters married. Ethel Williams lived on the farm with her two sisters until the sisters’ deaths. At the time of the complaint, Williams’s only remaining descendants were Ethel Williams, Etta Tallent, and other unnamed, lineal descendants (defendants). Ethel Williams claimed to hold a fee-simple interest in the farm, rather than a life estate. The trial and appellate courts agreed with Ethel Williams and found that the will had granted each of the three daughters a one-third fee-simple interest in the farm.

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