Seymour v. Heubaum

Appellate Court of Illinois, 1965.

65 Ill.App.2d 89, 211 N.E.2d 897.

Johnson, pp. 161-165


Facts: Effie Seymour granted all of her estate to a trustee for the benefit of her son William, with the remainder to go to William’s heirs.  When William died, his will left all his property to his wife.  The wife sued to have Effie’s will interpreted such that she would have a fee simple devised by William.  The widow wins at trial and the heirs of William other than William appeal.


Issue: Does the rule in Shelley’s case apply to Effie Seymour’s will, thus granting William, and in turn his widow, a fee simple absolute?


Rule: Whenever a freehold estate is granted to the ancestor and a remainder is granted to his heirs, the word “heirs” is taken to be a word of limitation rather than a word of purchase, and thus the ancestor acquires a fee simple interest in the estate.  The rule operates when all three of these conditions are present:


1.     A freehold estate must be granted to the ancestor (in this case William).

2.     A remainder must be granted to “his heirs” using exactly those words.

3.     The two estates must be of the same quality (legal or equitable).


Analysis: William’s widow will prevail if the rule applies.  The defendants make several arguments against it:


1.     The second part of the rule isn’t satisfied because, they claim, the word “heirs” isn’t used as a word of limitation, but rather as a word of purchase (to refer to specific people).

2.     It is claimed that the two estates were not of the same quality because the life estate was equitable while the remainder was legal.


The court rejects both arguments!  How come?


Conclusion: The trial court’s decision is affirmed and the widow gets all the property.


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