Source: Virginia Law Register
Source type: journal
Document type: article
Document title: “President McKinley’s Will”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 7
Issue number: 6
|“President McKinley’s Will.” Virginia Law Register Oct. 1901 v7n6: pp. 440-41.|
|William McKinley (last will and testament).|
|Edward C. Burks; Charles A. Graves; Helen McKinley; Ida McKinley; William McKinley.|
|McKinley’s mother died in 1897, the same year this will was witnessed.|
President McKinley’s Will
WILL.—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.
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.