Fee simple absolute found despite language of "in trust" and "for the uses, purposes" of the YWCA

In a standard application of traditional estates doctrine, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has found a fee simple absolute despite language in the grant to the YWCA stating that the property was given "in trust, nevertheless, for the uses, purposes and trusts aforesaid." Young Women's Christian Ass'n, Inc. of Boston, Inc. v. Young Women's Christian Ass'n of Philadelphia, Inc., 90 Mass. App. Ct. 1119, 2016 WL 7162737 (Table) (Mass. 2016).

Traditionally any language in a conveyance of a fee simple that explains the "purpose" of the transfer or the "use" to which it is to be put, is interpreted as precatory language that has no legal effect on the title that is conveyed. The interpretive principle of the "presumption against forfeitures" suggests that any retained future interest or right of control in the grantor must be created explicitly and unambiguously. Some courts interpret this language to create an implied trust, or a fee simple determinate with a possibility of reverter in the grantor if the condition is violated or an executory interest in a third party if one is mentioned as taking the estate if the limitation is violated. And some courts would find a restrictive covenant enforceable by the grantor's heirs. But most courts follow the approach here and simply ignore the "use" and "purpose" and "trust" language and interpret the "fee simple" grant as a fee simple absolute.

The language in the will stated:

"“TWENTY–FOURTH: ... (c) To pay, assign, transfer and convey, after the death of the last annuitant, all my aforesaid residuary estate, absolutely and in fee simple, to the Young Women’s Christian Association of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, IN TRUST, nevertheless, for the uses, purposes and trusts aforesaid, or in the event that the Young Women’s Christian Association of Philadelphia will not or for any reason cannot accept this gift, then to the Young Women’s Christian Association of Boston, Massachusetts, for the uses, purposes and trusts aforesaid.”

The will further defined "the “uses, purposes and trusts” relating to the property as follows: “to maintain, use and operate said properties as a place which is available for the benefit, rest and recreation of white Protestant women from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and its vicinity, who are members of the Young Women’s Christian Association of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

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