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Massachusetts Agencies

Partition of Remainder Subject to Life Estate

Partition

The case of Bernat v. Kivior, 22 Mass.App.Ct. 957, 494 N.E.2d 425 (1986) reiterates the rule that remaindermen who hold their title subject to a life estate cannot have partition because they do not have a "present, possessory interest in land," which partition requires. The court said, "a life estate is itself — unless the governing instrument otherwise states — an exclusive possessory interest," which would prevent possession from being in the remaindermen.

The real issue at hand in Bernat was whether there was a life estate in the first place that prevented the remaindermen from having partition. The court noted that the deed in question conveyed the fee title to named parties (Alice E. Hadala, Frances Varno, Celia L. Bernat and Mildred D. Lagowski, as joint tenants) and then contained the statement that "[s]aid premises are conveyed subject to the rights of Helen V. Kivior to occupy the granted premises for the rest of her life." The court said that although language setting out the grantees as "Helen V. Kivior for life, the remainder to Alice E. Hadala, Frances Varno, Celia L. Bernat and Mildred D. Lagowski, as joint tenants" would have been a "clearer manifestation of intent," the language that was in fact used was sufficient to conferred a life estate to Helen.