President McKinley’s Will
W.—We print below a copy of the will of the
late President McKinley—whose untimely death the whole world mourns.
If a Virginia court were called upon to construe this will, there
would be much room for the argument that instead of Mrs. McKinley’s
taking a life estate, as the testator clearly intended, she takes
a fee-simple, charged only with the annuity to the testator’s mother,
and to the exclusion of the remaindermen. The Virginia courts have
pushed to the utmost limit what is known in this State as “the doctrine
of May v. Joynes” (20 Gratt. 692)—that is that a limitation
for life, and “what remains” over in fee to another, carries a fee-simple
to the first taker—whether the estate be real of personal. See Farish
v. Wayman, 91 Va. 430, 21 S. E. 810, 1 Va. Law Reg. 214 and
note by Judge Burks collecting the Virginia authorities. See also
a striking illustration of the extremity to which the doctrine has
been carried, in Robertson v. Hardy (Va.), 23 S. E.
In most of the States the courts are
more liberal in upholding the intention of the testator, and limiting
the estate in such case to a life estate in the first taker, unless
it distinctly appear that such was not the intention of the testator.
See Giles v. Little, 104 U. S. 291; Rubey v.
Barnett, 12 Mo. 3, 49 Am. Dec. 112, and note, 115-119. Compare
Roberts v. Lewis, 153 U. S. 367. In 3 Va. Law Reg.
65 will be found an excellent discussion of this subject, by Prof.
Graves, in which are reviewed both the Virginia doctrine and that
generally prevailing elsewhere.
The will in question is as follows:
“I publish the following as my latest
will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills:
“To my beloved wife, Ida S. McKinley,
I bequeath all of my real estate, wherever situated, and the income
of any personal property of which I may be possessed at death, during
her natural life. I make the following charge upon all my property,
both real and personal:
“To pay my mother during her life
$1,000 a year, and at her death said sum to be paid to my sister,
Helen McKinley. If the income from property be insufficient to keep
my wife in great comfort and pay the annuity above provided, then
I direct that such of my property be sold so as to make a sum adequate
for both purposes. Whatever property remains at the death of my
wife, I give to my  brother
and sisters, share and share alike. My chief concern is that my
wife from my estate shall have all she requires for her comfort
and pleasure, and that my mother shall be provided with whatever
money she requires to make her old age comfortable and happy.
“Witness my hand and seal this 22d
day of October, 1897, to my last will and testament, made at the
City of Washington, District of Columbia.