Property I Class Website

Prof. Scott B. Ehrlich
Fall 2014

Welcome to the Property Class Website

This website provides updated information about the course and assignments. It also contains links to the handouts and materials used in the course, as well as links to sites on the web.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Please note: All materials on this web site are protected by copyright and intended for use only by students enrolled in Property II at California Western School of Law. Students enrolled in the class may copy these materials to their own computers. However, these materials may not be transferred to others or posted on publicly accessible web sites.


We will be using two resources: (1) Ehrlich, Assignments & Supplement; and, (2) Dukeminier, Property (8th ed).  All of the Assignments for the course are contained in the photocopied materials or on-line via this link: Assignments for the entire Semester.  Assignments the next few classes will always be posted below.  As time passes, you can find earlier assignments at the following link: Past Assignments.


Note: Hit the “refresh” button on your browser to make sure that you are looking at a current version of the assignments, rather than a cached version on your computer.


1.    Thursday, October 2:

a.    Review Gruen v. Gruen and the slideshows from last class.  In which of the following hypos is there a valid delivery of an inter vivos gift?

i.      Victor says to his son Michael on the telephone: “The painting is yours.”

ii.     Victor says to his son Michael on the telephone: “The painting is yours but I will retain possession until I die.”

iii.    Victor says to his son Michael on the telephone: “The painting is yours when I die.”

b.    Introduction to Estates in Land & The Fee Simple

i.      Pages 207-226.

ii.     Answer, in writing, hypotheticals 1-6 at pages 35-38 of the Supplement.  Don’t answer questions 7-12 at this time.  Make sure you bring your written answers to class.  This is a required writing assignment.  Bring a hard copy to class with you.  If you will not be attending class, you must email the responses to Prof. Ehrlich before the start of class.  On line copies of the hypotheticals: PDF, Word

c.    Interpretation of Deeds & Wills:

i.      White v. Brown at pages 226-234 and notes 1-2 following the case. In White v. Brown, pay close attention to:

(1)  The discussion of will interpretation.

(2)  The discussion of restraints on alienation

(3)  In White v. Brown, what are the rules regarding “restraints on alienation” Suppose that Jesse Lide wrote the following in her will:  “I Jesse Lide hereby grant my house to Evelyn White in fee simple absolute, however . . . :”

(a)  Evelyn shall not have the right to convey the land.”  Or

(b)  Evelyn must live on the land during her natural life.”  Or

(c)  if Evelyn sells the land it shall revert back to my estate.” Or

(d)  Evelyn promises to live on the land during her natural life and not sell the land.

2.    Tuesday, October 7:

a.    Interpretation of Deeds & Wills:

(1)  In White v. Brown the court refers to three earlier Tennessee cases.  How did the court interpret the grants in each case:

(a)  Green v. Young (1931), in a will, the decedent disposed of all of her property to her husband "to be used by him for his support and comfort during his life."

(b)  Williams v. Williams (1933), in a will, the decedent disposed all of his real property to his children "for and during their natural lives" without provision for a gift over at their death.

(c)  Webb v. Webb (1964), in a will, the decedent disposed of his personal property to the his wife "for her maintenance, support and comfort, for the full period of her natural life" with complete powers of alienation. The will was silent as to any reversion or remainder.

b.    Life Estates & Waste:

i.      Baker v. Weedon at pages 235-243 and read notes 1, 2 & 4 following the case. Read the note on Seisen at pages 243-244.  We will be discussing life estates & waste (voluntary and permissive).  Make sure you use some outside resources for some insights into the doctrines of voluntary and permissive waste.  Any of the following will help:

(1)  Moynihan & Kurtz (West Hornbook)

(2)  Bernhardt (Black Letter Series)

(3)  Makdisi (Little Brown Examples & Explanations Series)

(4)  Gilbert’s, Emanuel’s

c.    Can you distinguish the following types of “waste”:

(1)  Permissive Waste

(2)  Affirmative Waste

(3)  Ameliorative Waste


Professor Barton and Professor Ehrlich will be swapping classes on the following dates:

Wednesday, October 8th: Property class will be taught during the Civil Procedure time slot (11:50-1:05 in Room 2B). The class will be recorded for Part-Time students.

Thursday, October 16th: Civil Procedure class will be taught during the Property time slot (8:00-9:15 in Room LH2). .



3.    Wednesday, October 8th: ***Property Class meets during Civil Procedure Time Slot***

a.    Ameliorative Waste

i.      What, exactly, is “ameliorative waste”?  If Ann (the life tenant) is engaging in ameliorative waste, can Bob (the remainder holder) succeed in an action seeking damages or injunction for waste by Ann?  To answer this question, read Melms v. Pabst Brewing Co.  For an interesting article about the Melms case see this link: Melms Article

b.    Waste Hypotheticals:  Respond to the following hypotheticals.

i.      Grant dies, leaving his land to his wife, Ann “for Ann’s life, then to the American Cancer Society.”  Ann is 25 years old and healthy.  The land is 5,000 acres in size and has a sub-surface pool of oil. The fair market value of the land is $1 billion.  There is also a small house on the land.  The surface can be rented for about $2,000 per month, which is enough to pay all current taxes and expenses.  Can Ann pump some of the oil and sell it if:

(1)  Grant knew about the oil but was not pumping it?

(2)  Grant didn’t know about the oil?

(3)  Grant was already pumping oil?

c.    Adverse Possession & Life Estates

i.      Grant deeded land “To Ann for life, then to Bob.”  The deed was defective.  Ann took possession for 45 years.  After 45 years, Ann brings an action alleging that she has gained title to the FEE by adverse possession.  Should Ann succeed in this action?

ii.     Grant deeded land “To Ann for life, then to Bob.”  The land was vacant.  Grantor then executed a deed: “To Xavier in fee simple absolute.”  Xavier did not know about the prior grant to Ann & Bob.  Xavier took possession and built a home.  He lived there for 45 years.  Ann died 3 weeks ago.  Today Bob brings an action alleging that he is the rightful owner.  Xavier alleges that he has gained title by adverse possession.  Who will succeed in the action of Bob v. Xavier?

d.    Brief Introduction to Leasehold Estates: Page 244.

4.    Thursday, October 9:

a.    Defeasible Estates:

i.      Pages 244-247

ii.     Answer, in writing, hypotheticals 6-12 at pages 35-38 of the Supplement.  Make sure you bring your written answers to class. This is a required writing assignment. On line copies of the hypotheticals: PDF, Word, If you will not be in class, make sure you email the assignment to me before class.

iii.    Mahrenholz v. County Board of School Trustees at pages 248-256 and notes 1-4 following the case.

(1)  Note that this case is a mid-level appeals court.  Carefully note the cases referred to in the opinion, which are opinions of the Supreme Court of Illinois. 

(2)  This mid-level appellate court is clearly wrong in applying Illinois law about interpretation of deeds and wills.  Why? Concentrate on the bottom of page 228 and the top of 229.  Is the intent of the grantor to create a fee simple determinable clear – or is the court engaging in speculation about the intent?

5.    Tuesday, October 14

a.    Mountain Brow Lodge No. 82, Independent Order of Odd Fellows v. Toscano at pages 258-264 and notes 1-2 following the case.  Also read the note on page 243. The will in that case stated:

(1)  "Said property is restricted for the use and benefit of [Mountain Brow Lodge], only; and in the event the same fails to be used by [Mountain Brow Lodge]-- or -- in the event of sale or transfer by the [Mountain Brow Lodge] of all or any part of said lot --  the same is to revert to the first parties herein, their successors, heirs or assigns."

ii.     Why should both provisions be unenforceable as restraints on alienation?

b.    Read Defeasible Life Estates at pages 271-273.

c.    Modern Curtailment of Defeasible Fees:  Read the statutory provisions of the California Civil Code at pages 39-41 of the Supplement.  Be prepared to explain the purpose of each statutory section.  Prepare, in writing, a short explanation of the purpose of each statutory section. 

6.    Thursday, October 16:  Civil Procedure meets during Property time slot.



Links and Reference Materials    

There is a password for some documents on this website.  It will be announced in class and emailed to you.

1.    California Adverse Possession Statutes

2.    California Codes.  This link connects you to the official site of the State of California and allows you to search any of the California Codes.  For instance, to find out about tenant security deposits, click “Civil Code” and insert “tenant security deposit” in the search block.

Questions & Answers

If you have a question that you would like answered, e-mail Prof. Ehrlich at: Your name will not be posted, just the question & answer. We have powerful & enthusiastic junk email filters. If you send me email from an outside account (not your law school email account) make sure you put the word “Property” in the Subject line.


The following links will take you to a compilation of questions posed by prior students, and answers posted by Prof. Ehrlich:  


General Questions & Answers


Estates in Land Questions & Answers


Contact Prof. Ehrlich

E-mail: sbe@cwsl.eduPlease put the word “Property” in the Subject line.
Tel: 619-525-1416
Office: Room 313, Administration Building (225 Cedar St.)


Office Hours





Other Times:

I’m often available, please knock.