Court name
Supreme Court
Case number
CIVIL CASE 110 of 1950
Case name
May v Williams
Law report citations
1950-1956 ALR SL 55
Media neutral citation
[1950] SLSC 21
Case summary:

Land Law-estate  tail-words  of  limitation-devise  to  persons  and their legitimate children  after them forever-"forever" limits  devise to surviving legitimate children at  death of  last named person.

Judge
Kinglsey, Ag CJ

MAY   v.   WILLIAMS,   1950-56   ALR S.L.  55                                   s.c,

MAY  v. WILLIAMS

SuPREME  CouRT (Kingsley, Ag.C.J.):                                 August 8th, 1950 (Civil Case No. 110/50)

 

  1. Land Law-estate  tail-words  of  limitation-devise  to  persons  and their legitimate children  after them forever-"forever" limits  devise to surviving legitimate children at  death of  last named person:  Where  a testator devises property to his  widow  and  named  children  "and their legitimate children after them  forever,"  the  words  "forever" are words of limitation which limit the devise to those legitimate children of the persons named surviving at the  death  of  the  last  of such persons named; and therefore the property will not devolve to grandchildren of the testator whose  entitled  parents  did  not  so  survive (page 57, line 28-page 58, line 16).
  2. Land Law-joint tenancy-words of severance-co-ownership prima

facie construed as joint tenancy-words indicating intention to divide 15

property negative joint tenancy-court favours construction creating tenancy in·common if ambiguity: Where property is devised to several persons  concurrently,  the  question  whether  such  persons  take  as joint tenants or tenants in common depends on  the  context  of  the whole will; and although prima facie they take as joint tenants, any­

thing which in the slightest degree indicates an intention to _divide 20

the  property  negatives  the   idea  of   a   joint  tenancy,   and  in  the  case of ambiguity  the  court  leans  to  the  construction  which  creates  a tenancy  in  common  in  preference  to  that  which  creates   a   joint tenancy   (page  57,  lines  8-21).                                                                ·

  1. Land Law-joint tenancy-words of severance-devise to persons 25

and their legitimate children after them for ever creates joint tenancy:

A devise of property to named persons "and their legitimate children after them for ever," shows a clear intention that the property should devolve upon the named persons as  joint  tenants  and, after the  death  of the last survivor of them, to any of their  surviving  legitimate children (page 57, line 34-.page 58, line 13).

  1. Land Law-tenancy in common-words of  severance-co-ownership prima facie construed as joint tenancy-words indicating intention to divide property negative joint tenancy-court favours construction creating tenancy in common: See [2] above.
  2. Succession-wills-construction-joint tenancy and tenancy in com­ 35

mon-co-ownership   prima   facie   construed   as   joint  tenancy-words

indicating intention to divide property negative joint tenancy-court favours  construction  creating  tenancy  in  common  if  ambiguity: See

[2] above.

  1. Succession-wills-construction-joint tenancy and tenancy in com­ mon-devise to persons and their legitimate children after  them  for ever creates joint tenancy: See [3] above.

 

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THE   AFRICAN   LAW REPORTS

 

 

  1. Succession-wills-construction-words of   limitation-devise   to   per­ sons and their legitimate children after them for ever-"for  ever"  limits devise to surviving legitimate children at death of last named person: See [1] above.

5               In an action between the plaintiff  and  the  defendant,  the Supreme Court was asked to construe  a  clause in  a  will  by  which the testator devised certain property to his widow and three named children  and  then  to "their  legitimate  children  after  them  for ever."

At  the  time  the  last  of  the  named  children  died,  only  the plaintiff

10  and one other  grandchild  of  the testator  were surviving.           The defen­

dant, who had been married to a grandchild who had not survived, claimed a share in the property  and  the  plaintiff  instituted  the  present proceedings.

15       Case referred to:

(1) Public Trustee v. Clarkson, [1915] 2 Ch. 216; (1915), 113 L.T. 917,

dictum of Eve, J. considered.

O.I.E. During for the plaintiff;

20       Cole for the defendant.

KINGSLEY, Ag.C.J.

In the  will  of  the  late  Joseph  May,  dated  August  15th,  1888, a clause which I am asked to interpret reads as follows :

25 "I  give  and  bequeath  my  dwelling-house  and  premises  at Liverpool Street, Freetown, to my dear wife Juliana Alexandrina

May, to my sons Joseph Claudius May and Theobald Cornelius May, and to my daughter Sarah Augusta Florence May, to them and their legitimate children after them for ever."

30 The testator died  on  March  8th,  1891,  probate  being  granted  on August 17th of that year.  The  widow  and  three  children  are  all dead. One son, the aforementioned Joseph Claudius May,  was  survived by two children, Clarisa May and  the  plaintiff  in  this  action.    The   other   son,   the   aforementioned   Theobold  Cornelius

35 May, was survived by  a daughter  Isa  May and also had a son Osoba  May. The former, herself now deceased,  was  married  to  the defendant in this action, a Dr. P.J. Williams, while the latter pre­ deceased his father and  was  survived  by  a  daughter  Tungi  May. The court  is  now  asked  to say  whether  the  defendant,  the said P.J.

40 Williams, and the said Tungi May are entitled to share in the above-mentioned  devise.    It   is  not   in   dispute   that   the  testator's

 

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MAY   v.  WILLIAMS,   1950-56   ALR S.L.  55                                                                 s.c.

grandchildren mentioned above and the girl Tungi May are the legitimate children of their respective parents.

It is obvious I think that the answer to the question must,

primarily at any rate, depend  on  whether  the  widow  and  children mentioned in the disputed clause took the property as joint tenants or           5

as tenants in common. In 34 Halsbury's  Laws of  England, 2nd  ed. at  354, it is there stated :

"Where  property  is  given  to  several  persons  concurrently,

the  [question]   whether  these  persons   take  as   joint  tenants or

tenants  in common  . .  .  depend[s]  on  the  context  of the whole                                                                         10

w:ill. Prima  facie  they  take  as  joint  tenants;  but  it  has  been said that, in considering  the  context,  anything  which  in  the slightest degree indicates an intention to divide  the  property negatives the idea of a joint tenancy, and that in a case of

ambiguity  the  Court  leans  to  the  construction  which  creates  a                                                                         15

tenancy ,,in common in preference to that which creates a joint tenancy.

In  Public  Trustee  v.  Clarkson  (1),  Eve,  J.,  referring  to  this point,

said   ([1915]   2  Ch.  at   219;  113  L.T.  at   919):   "[T]he  Court will  be

astute to discover any indication of an intention on the part of the 20

testator  to  create  a  tenancy  in  common."  Doubtless  with  an  eye on the  list  given  in  Jarman  on  Wills,  both  6th  and  7th  editions,  of  words  which  will create  a tenancy  in common,  a list  which Eve,

J.  in  the  above-mentioned  case  described   (ibid.)  as  "more  or less

exhaustive,"   Mr.  Cole  asked   me  in  construing   the  said clause  to                                                                             25

insert the words  "each  of'  before  the  word  "them"  which  appears in the fifth and sixth lines of it.

I  can see  no reason  why I should.            The whole will as I read it points            I   think    just   precisely    the            opposite    way. The           testator

apparently  had  other  children  besides  those  named  in the disputed                                                                           SO clause; anywhere any property was to be,  or  could  be, sold,  and  the proceeds distributed in shares, he has clearly said so, as in the case

for example  of  his  property  at  Charles  Street, or in  the  case of  his

household  furniture  and  other  miscellaneous  articles.                                                              Furthermore

the  words  "to  them"  following  on  the   absence  of  any mention  of                                                                             35

any precise shares are either superfluous,  or mean  just precisely what I think is clear from the context of the will was  the  testator's  intention, namely, that the widow and the  three  children  named should hold the property as joint tenants.

I am fortified in this view by the implication of the words 40

"after them" which also appear in the disputed clause. Unless there

 

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THE  AFRICAN  LAW REPORTS

 

is some reason why I should  interpose  the  words  "each  of"-no proper reason has been adduced for  my  doing  so  and  I  can  see  none  myself-these  words  can  in  my  view  in  their  particular context  mean  only  one  thing  and  that  is "after  they  have  all died."

5 In other  clauses  the  testator  has  been  careful  enough  to  mention  some of his grandchildren  by  their  respective  names,  and  I  hold that the implication of the words "after them," taken in conjunction with the words "to them" to  which  I  have  already  referred,  is that the  testator  intended   that  the  premises   at   Liverpool  Street should

10 go  to  the  widow  and  the  three  children  named  as  their  joint property, holding as joint tenants, and after them, or in other words after the death of the last survivor amongst them,  to  any  then surviving legitimate children borne of the three children named.

As I look at the will as a whole, I think it is clear that the

15 words "for ever" are and were  intended  to  be  purely  words  of limitation, and I so hold.

The last of the testator's children to die was Sarah Augusta Florence May who died in 1949, and as at her  death  the  only surviving legitimate grandchildren concerned were Clarisa and

20 Claude Joseph May it follows that the answer as  to  whether  the defendant or the girl Tungi May are entitled to share in the premises mentioned in the disputed clause must be in the negative.

Order accordingly