SW Legal studies in Business

Invalid Marriage Need Not Invalidate Grant of Property
Description Mississippi appeals court held that despite the fact that a marriage was invalid, because the woman hid the fact of an existing marriage from the man she lived with for several years prior to his death, his grant to her of his house is valid because it is not clear that the deceit about the marriage would have affected his decision to give her the house.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Will; Grantor; Marriage; Fraud
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Law, a widower, married Cluney when he was 73 and she was 40. Prior to his death, which occurred five years later, Law conveyed his residence to Cluney as "joint tenants with full rights of survivorship." After Law's death, his son contested the conveyance of the residence because, he discovered, Cluney was still married to another man at the time of her purported marriage to Law. Hence, the marriage was invalid. The trial court agreed that there was fraud involved and set aside Cluney's inheritance rights to the house. She appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The fact that Cluney hid her existing marriage from Law did not establish that Law relied on the validity of their marriage in deeding his property to her. His gift of the house to Cluney appears to have been voluntary, as he told other parties he wanted her to have the house. "Not every spoken untruth is actionable as fraud. It is only if that untruth by design and effect induced the hearer to change his position in justifiable reliance on the information. There is no direct evidence that Law conveyed the residence only because he thought Cluney was his wife."

Citation In re Estate of Law, — So.2d— (2002 WL 1277936, Ct. App., Miss., 2002)

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