Selling property can be complicated. In order to sell a piece of real estate properly, you need to consult with a variety of professionals. Typically, you meet with an appraiser, a licensed agent, a construction professional, among myriad others.
To reap the greatest benefit, the seller must also conduct market research to be cognizant of trends. Selling a home is tricky enough when the ownership status of the home is straightforward; when ownership status is not, the process can be downright maddening.
The case of Baker v Weedon (1972) is one example of this. Due to the presence of multiple ownership interests (specifically contingent remainder interests), selling real estate became complicated.
Baker v Weedon: The Case
In Baker v Weedon, a dispute developed over the sale of a portion of land in Alcorn County, Mississippi.
Anna Plaice Weedon was the wife of the original owner, John Harrison Weedon. Once widowed, Anna received life estate interest in the land.
Weedon’s will dictated that if Anna had any children, then ownership would be transferred to them upon her death. In the event Anna had no children, the land would transfer to Weedon’s grandchildren (who he had from a previous marriage). These grandchildren (initiated the suit against Anna) had a contingent remainder interest in the land.
Anna sold a portion of the land in 1964 to the city. At the time of the sale, the land was appreciating in value in tandem with commercial development in the surrounding area. Projections indicated the land would increase in value by $150,000 in a few short years.
Anna felt she needed to sell the portion of land so that she could construct a new home for herself. However, selling the land presented problems as doing so removed the remainder interests of the grandchildren, not to mention the thousands of dollars in unrealized income. The issue became whether the court could order a sale of land affected by future interests.
What’s the law say?
A court may order a judicial sale of land in certain situations. For instance, a court may order a sale in order to avoid economic waste and prevent deterioration of the land. However, when making a ruling, the court must consider what is necessary for the best interest of all parties.
Court rules in favor of Baker
The court ruled in favor of Baker. They recognized neither party were served by the sale of land. Though such a sale may have been appropriate under different circumstances, in this case the court reasoned the sale would have resulted in too great of a financial loss. This was especially true for the remaindermen due to the fact that the value of the land was appreciating rapidly.
The court (the Supreme Court of Mississippi) sent the case to the chancery court with instructions to find a more equitable solution to the problem.
Baker v Weedon presents an exceptional case that illustrates some of the complexities of selling property when the market is hot. Let’s be happy this type of situation doesn’t develop very often!