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 .
16. Thorn's Ex'r v. Thorn, 95 Va. 413, 28 S. E. 583.
17. Kennedy v. Blodgett, 19 S. C. 591.
18. Goodright v. Walls, 2 Dougl. 778 per Lord Mansfield.
19. Ante, Sec. 104.
20. Goodright v. Wells, 2
Douglas, 778; Selby v. Austin, 3 Ves. Jr. 339; In re Douglas 28 Ch. Div. 327; Hopkinson v. Dumas, 42 N. H. 296; Nicholson v. Hal-sey, 1 Johns. Ch. (N. Y.) 417; Dan-forth v. Oshkosh, 119 Wis. 262, 97 N. W. 258.
Simple, with no particular estate outstanding,21 though it would seem that there is no such absolute necessity of merger in such a case, since, for instance, when A and B hold the legal title and also the beneficial interest, A might be regarded as under a trust obligation to B, and B under a trust obligation to A.
In referring to the possibility of merger of the equitable in the legal interest, it is not infrequently said that this occurs only when the interests are commensurate.22 These statements are based on a dictum which occurs in a decision,23 rendered over a hundred years ago, by which the court refused to recognize the merger, in the legal fee simple, of an equitable remainder in fee simple upon an equitable fee tail, for the reason that this would involve a hardship on the tenant in fee tail as depriving him of the power to bar the equitable fee simple by a recovery. In that case the court appears to have regarded the fact that there was an equitable particular estate outstanding in another as being sufficient to prevent the equitable and legal estates, though both in fee simple, from being regarded as "commensurate" for the purpose of this requirement. This would seem to indicate some ambiguity as to the meaning of the statement that the estates must be commensurate. Giving to the expression "commensurate" its natural meaning, as referring to the similarity of the estates as being both in fee simple or both for life, the requirement has been applied when one had an equitable estate for his life and at the same time a legal fee
21. In re Selous (1901) 1 Ch. 922; Coster v. Lorillard, 14 Wend. (N. Y.) 265, 380; Greene v. Greene, 125 N. Y. 506, 21 Am. St. Rep. 743, 26 N. E. 739. But see Tilton v. Davidson. 98 Me. 55, 56 Atl. 215; Harris v. Harris, 205 Pa. 460, 55 Atl. 30.
22. In re Selous (1901) 1 Ch. 922; Donalds v. Plumb, 8 Conn. 453; Richardson v. Stodder, 100
Mass., 528; Bolles v. State Trust Co., 27 N. J. Eq. 308; Nicholson v. Halsey, 1 Johns. Ch. (N. Y.) 417; Lewin, Trusts (12th Ed.) 12; Perry, Trusts, Sec.Sec. 13, 347.
23. Philips v. Bridges, 3 Ves. Jr., 120. And See Robinson v. Cuming, Rep. temp. 'Talbot 164, 1 Atk. 473; Merest v. James, 6 Madd. 318.
Occasionally the sole legal title becomes vested in one of several concurrent beneficiaries, as when A holds the legal title nominally in trust for himself and B during their lives. It would be generally assumed that in such a case A is trustee for himself as well as for B,27 but in one state at least it appears to be settled that A has a legal estate in an undivided half interest, and no equitable estate whatsoever.28
It would seem on the whole that the question whether the equitable interest is merged in the legal title, upon their coming together, should be settled in each case with reference to the particular circumstances thereof, merger being ordinarily regarded as taking place unless the resulting extinguishment of the equitable interest would operate to cause injustice or to defeat the purpose of the creator of the trust.29
24. Richardson v. Stodder, 100 Mass. 528.
25. Wills v. Cooper, 25 N. J. L. 137; Weeks v. Frankel, 197 N. Y. 304, 90 N. E. 969.
26. Spengler v. Kuhn, 212 111. 186, 72 N. E. 214. See Losey v. Stanley, 147 N. Y. 560, 42 N. E. 8. In re Stewart's Estate, 253 Pa. 277, 98 Atl. 569.
That an equitable life estate does not merge in the legal fee simple for the purpose of the Rule in Shelley's Case, see post, Sec. 153.
27. Ante Sec. 104, notes 20, 21.
28. Wills v. Cooper, 25 N. J. L. 137; Bolles v. State Trust Co., 27 N. J. Eq. 308. And see Mason v. Mason's Excr's., 2 Sandf. Ch. 432, 477.
29. To this effect, see Bowlin v. Citizen's Bank & Trust Co., 131 Ark. 97, 198 S. W. 288; Donalds v. Plumb, 8 Conn. 453; Sherlock v. Thompson, 167 Iowa, 1, 148 N. W. 1035; Tilton v. Davidson, 98 Me v. Steele, 232 Fed. 10, 146 C. C. A. 202; 1 Perry, Trusts Sec. 347.
- (c) Effect on legal title. When a beneficial interest is given to one for a limited time, or for a limited purpose, and the time expires or the purpose is exhausted, the question as to who has the beneficial enjoyment thereafter is a question of the construction of the instrument. For instance, after the expiration of an equitable life interest in favor of A, there may be a beneficial interest expressly vested in A's children, or in B, or in the person who, during A's life, held the legal title to the land. There may, indeed, be a gift to A and his heirs in trust for B and his heirs, with a limitation over in favor of B of a legal estate in fee simple, to commence on an event named, that is, an equitable estate in fee simple may be subject to be divested by a legal estate in fee simple in the same person.30 If there is no language in the instrument to determine the person beneficially entitled after the death of A, there is a resulting trust in favor of the grantor or the testator's heirs, or perhaps a legal estate in reversion.31
The person being ascertained who has the right of beneficial enjoyment after the expiration of the limited equitable interest first expressly created, the question then arises whether such person has merely the beneficial interest, with the legal title outstanding in the original trustee or his successor in office, or whether such person has the legal title together with the beneficial ownership, in other words, whether the trust is to be regarded as having come to an end. In this country at least the courts tend to regard the trust as coming to an end at the earliest possible time, and the legal title as thereafter vested in the person who has the beneficial ownership. For instance, if land is given to