Burnyeat died, leaving a wife,
Hildegard, a mother, a father, two brothers and two sisters. His will
left a trust creating a life estate
for his wife, with the remainder going to his children. If there were no
children (which their weren't), the wife got a special
testamentary power of appointment to
distribute the trust assets to any nephews and nieces he had.
The will had a caveat that
if Hildegard married a non-British subject, her power of appointment would be revoked and the trust principle would
be distributed to all nephews/nieces who were alive when the oldest turns
This would also happen is
Hildegard did not make an appointment.
After Burnyeat died, Hildegard
married the non-British Van der Loeff and one of Burnyeat's brothers had a
child named Phillip.
The British Trial Court found
that the caveat was not valid because it violated the Rule Against
Perpetuities. Phillip appealed.
In addition, the Trial Court
found that the gift to nephews born after Hildegard remarried (aka
Phillip) was invalid because the caveat was not invalidated until Hildegard
The British Appellate Court
The British House of Lords
reversed the Appellate Court and restored the judgment of the Trial Court.
The House of Lords found
that a plain reading of the testator's will showed that it was attempting to postpone the ascertainment
of possible members of the class beyond the period of a life in being at
the date of the testator's
death plus 21 years.
Basically, at the time
Burnyeat died, there were no living nephews. It would be possible that
Hildegard could remarry thus invoking the clause in the will.
Burnyeat's father (who was still alive) could have another child (who
would be Burnyeat's brother), and that child could eventually spawn a
nephew. That nephew would turn 21 more than 21 years after Hildegard
died, so the Rule Against Perpetuities would be violated because the clause in the will that gave the
assets to the nephews when the oldest turned 21 could occur more than 21
years after Hildegard's death.
Instead of just throwing out
the entire trust for a violation, the House of Lords used the Rule of
Administrative Convenience and simply
closed the class at the
date Hildegard lost the power of appointment. Any nieces/nephews born after that date (aka
Phillip) would be excluded from the class, and therefore the Rule Against
Perpetuities would no longer be