This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
An estate for life (or lives) is an estate which is measured by the life of a specified person, by the joint lives of two or more specified persons, or by the life of the last survivor of two or more specified persons.22 An estate for life or life estate created by deed or devise is sometimes termed a "conventional" life estate, as distinguished from such as may be created by the operation of some principle of law.23 The most important of the life estates created by operation of law are those arising out of the marital relation, and they will be considered elsewhere.24
An estate which is measured by the life of the tenant thereof is referred to merely as a life estate, while an estate which is measured by the life of one other than the tenant thereof is referred to as an estate pur aider vie.25
A gift to two or more persons for their lives is ordinarily construed as creating an estate or estates to endure, not so long only as they are all alive, but until the death of the last survivor.26 And a gift to a person
21. Riggs v. Sally, 15 Me. 408; Davis v. Hayden, 9 Mass. 514; Cor-bin v. Healy, 20 Pick. (Mass.) 514; Collamore v. Collamore, 158 Mass. 74, 32 N. E. 1034; Sander's Lessee v. Morningstar, 1 Yeates (Pa.)
313; Guthrie's Appeal, 37 Pa. St. 9; Reinhart v. Lantz, 37 Pa. St. 488.
22. Challis, Real Property (3d Ed.) 339.
23. 2 Blackst. Comm. 120; 4 Kent's Comm. 25.
24. Post, chapter VIII (Estates And Interests Arising From Marriage).
25. Litt, Sec. 56; 1 Cruise's Dig. tit. 3, c. 1, Sec. 3; Challis, Real Prop. 339.
26. Glover v. Stillson, 56 Conn. 316, 15 Atl. 752; Smith v. Usher, 108 Ga. 231, 33 S. E. 876; Dow v. Doyle, 103 Mass. 489; Henry v. Henderson, 103 Miss. 48, 60 So. 33; Lentz v. Lentz, 2 Phila. (Pa.) 117; Wootten v. Wootten's Ex'r, 2 Pat. & H. (Va.) 494; Theobald, Wills (6th Ed.) 496.
The question of the construction of such a gift is intimately confor the lives of himself and another clearly creates an estate in his favor to endure until the death of the survivor,27 the donee having an estate for his own life upon the death of such other person, while if the donee is the first to die, the estate then assumes the characteristics of an estate pur auter vie.28
In order to constitute a life estate, it is not necessary that the estate be such that it must continue during the life or lives named; it being sufficient that it may so continue, though liable to be cut off by the happening of a contingency before the termination of such life or lives. For example, an estate given to a woman for her life or during her widowhood, or to a man for his life or so long as he shall live in a certain house, is an estate for life.29
An estate for the tenant's own life is considered in law as of a higher character than an estate pur auter vie, and accordingly, since a conveyance is construed most strongly against the grantor, in case of doubt the conveyance will be construed as conveying the greater estate, i. e., one for the tenant's own life, rather than for the life of the grantor.30 In the case of a. will the testator can obviously not intend to give an estate to endure for his own life, and the natural construction of a gift, expressed to be for life, is that of a gift for the donee's life, in the absence of an evident intention to create an estate pur aider vie.
Nected with that of the implication of cross remainders. See the excellent editorial note in 11 Mich. Law Rev. at 474, where numerous authorities are cited.
27. Co. Litt. 41b; Chatfield v. Berchtoldt, 7 Ch. 192; the tenant has in such case an estate of freehold to continue till the death of the survivor, and not two estates one for his own life, and another pur auter vie. Rosse's Case, 5 Coke, 13a.
28. Leake, Prop. in Land 191
29. Co. Litt. 42a; 2 Blackst Comm. 121; 4 Kent, Comm. 26; McArthur v. Scott, 113 U. S. 340, 28 L. Ed. 1015; 377; Hayward v. Kinney, 84 Mich. 591, 48 N. W. 170; Disley v. Disley, 30 R. I. 366, 75 Atl. 481; Mattocks v. Stearns, 9 Vt. 326. In such case, the estate is one on special limitation. See post, Sec. 90.
30. Co. Litt. 42a; 2 Blackst. Comm. 121; Challis, Real Prop. 341.