Wyoming Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Real Property

A. Estates in Land
– Fee Simple Absolute: This is the highest ownership interest one can have in property. It is inheritable and has no conditions or limitations.
– Life Estate: This is an interest in property that lasts for the duration of a person’s life. Once the life tenant dies, the property reverts back to the original owner or passes to a designated third party.
– Remainder Interest: This is the interest that a third party holds in a property when a life estate has been granted. The holder of the remainder interest will gain full ownership upon the death of the life estate holder.
– Reversionary Interest: This is the interest retained by the original owner when a life estate is granted. If no remainder interest is designated, the property will revert back to the original owner upon the death of the life estate holder.

Case: White v. Brown (1972) – This case discussed the concept of life estates and how courts view ambiguities in wills. It is important to consider the testator’s intent when construing a will.

B. Landlord-Tenant Law
– Leasehold Estates: These are temporary rights to the use and possession of property. The tenant has an enforceable right to remain in the property for the duration of the lease.
– Constructive Eviction: This occurs when a landlord does not physically evict a tenant, but makes the property uninhabitable.
– Implied Warranty of Habitability: This is an implied promise in every residential lease that the property is fit for human habitation.

Case: Hilder v. St. Peter (1984) – This case established the implied warranty of habitability in residential leases. The court ruled that landlords must maintain basic living conditions in a residential property.

C. Easements and Covenants
– Easement: This is a nonpossessory right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose.
– Covenant: This is a promise to do or not do something related to land. Covenants run with the land and bind future owners.
– Affirmative Easement: This gives the holder the right to use another’s property.
– Negative Easement: This prevents the landowner from using his property in a way that would harm the easement holder’s use and enjoyment.

Case: Van Sandt v. Royster (1939) – This case discussed the concept of easements by necessity and how they may be created when a property is landlocked.

II. Personal Property

A. Possession and Ownership
– Actual Possession: This occurs when an individual knowingly has direct physical control over an item.
– Constructive Possession: This occurs when an individual has the ability and intent to control an item, even if they do not have actual possession.
– Lost Property: This is property that is unintentionally left behind. The finder can claim ownership against everyone except the true owner.
– Mislaid Property: This is property that is intentionally placed somewhere and then forgotten. The property is awarded to the owner of the premises, not the finder.

Case: Armory v. Delamirie (1722) – This case discussed finder’s rights to lost property. The court held that the finder of a lost item has a superior right to possession over everyone except the true owner.

B. Gifts
– Inter Vivos Gifts: These are gifts made during the giver’s lifetime.
– Causa Mortis Gifts: These are gifts made in contemplation of imminent death. They are revocable until the giver’s death and are only effective if the giver actually dies.
– To make a valid gift, there must be an intent to give, delivery of the gift, and acceptance of the gift by the recipient.

Case: Gruen v. Gruen (1986) – This case discussed the concept of gifts and what constitutes valid delivery. The court held that actual delivery is not necessary when it would be impractical or impossible.

III. Intellectual Property

A. Patents
– Patents give inventors the exclusive right to make, use, and sell an invention for a certain period.
– To be patentable, an invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful.

B. Copyrights
– Copyrights protect original works of authorship, including literary, musical, and artistic works.
– A copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display the work, and to make derivative works.

C. Trademarks
– Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, or designs used to identify and distinguish the goods of one seller from those of others.

Case: Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc. (1995) – This case expanded the definition of what can be trademarked, holding that color can meet the legal requirements for trademark registration.

IV. Future Interests

A. Remainders and Reversions
– A remainder is the future interest left in a grantee after a life estate or term of years.
– A reversion is the future interest left in a grantor after a life estate or term of years.

B. Vested and Contingent Remainders
– A vested remainder is certain to become possessory in the future.
– A contingent remainder depends on a condition happening before it becomes possessory.

Case: Riddle v. Harmon (1980) – This case discussed the modern trend towards abolishing the Rule in Shelley’s Case, a common law rule of property law that converts a contingent remainder into a vested remainder.

V. Rule Against Perpetuities
– The rule against perpetuities states that no interest in property is valid unless it must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years after the death of some life in being at the time of the creation of the interest.
– The rule is used to strike down interests that attempt to control property for too long a time after the death of the owner.

Case: Symonds v. Sherman (1874) – This case discussed the application of the rule against perpetuities to a future interest that was not certain to vest within the perpetuities period.

VI. Adverse Possession
– Adverse possession is a doctrine that allows an individual who possesses someone else’s land for an extended period of time to claim legal title to that land.
– The possession must be hostile, actual, open, notorious, exclusive, and continuous.

Case: Mannillo v. Gorski (1969) – This case discussed the requirement of hostility in adverse possession. The court held that good faith mistake by the adverse possessor does not preclude a claim of adverse possession.

VII. Concurrent Ownership
– Tenancy in Common: Each tenant in common owns an individual, undivided interest in the property and has the right to sell or transfer their interest without the consent of the other tenants.
– Joint Tenancy: Each joint tenant has an undivided right to the whole property. Joint tenancy includes the right of survivorship, meaning if one tenant dies, their interest automatically passes to the surviving tenant(s).
– Tenancy by the Entirety: This is a type of co-ownership that can only exist between married couples. Upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner.

Case: Riddle v. Harmon (1980) – This case discussed the severance of a joint tenancy by one joint tenant through a unilateral transfer to himself, thus creating a tenancy in common.

VIII. Land Use Regulation
– Zoning: This is the public regulation of property and building developments into zones based on the type of property, and how it can be used.
– Eminent Domain: The power of the government to take private property for public use in exchange for just compensation.
– Regulatory Takings: If a regulation goes too far, it will be recognized as a taking.

Case: Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon (1922) – This case discussed the concept of regulatory takings. The court held that if a regulation goes too far, it will be recognized as a taking.

IX. Wyoming Property Laws
– Homestead Exemption: In Wyoming, homeowners can claim a homestead exemption of up to $20,000 on their principal residence.
– Adverse Possession: In Wyoming, to claim property by adverse possession, an individual must possess the property for a period of 10 years.
– Mineral Rights: In Wyoming, mineral rights are often sold separately from surface rights due to the state’s rich oil and mineral reserves. This can lead to conflicts between surface owners and mineral rights owners.

Case: Watt v. State (1991) – This Wyoming Supreme Court case discussed surface owner’s rights. The court held that the surface owner has a right to compensation for the use and occupancy of his land by the mineral rights owner.

Discover more from Legal Three

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading