Have you heard of a famous hermit named Perley E. Swett? He was a resident of Stoddard, New Hampshire, at the time of his death in 1973.
Native residents of New Hampshire have probably heard the story of Mr. Swett before. He was a man with no money or means of financial support other than the massive property he owned. However, a generous man named Quentin H. White began helping Mr. Swett in 1968 after numerous meetups. Mr. White was nice enough to bring groceries to Mr. Swett and carry out any bank transactions that Mr. Swett needed to get done. Sometimes he even took him to his sister’s house for a visit.
The Gift of a Deed
Mr. Swett wanted to do something nice for Mr. White in return for all the help he had given him. Mr. Swett gave Mr. White a deed to a large land parcel in Harrisville, New Hampshire. When Mr. White received the deed, he immediately ripped it apart because he wasn’t expecting anything in return for his generosity. Mr. White claimed he was just being a good neighbor, so he didn’t deserve compensation.
Mr. Swett had insisted that Mr. White accept his deed as a payment for his services. In 1972, Mr. White finally decided to accept the deed from Mr. Swett. Unfortunately, there were some issues regarding the interpretation of the language used in Mr. Swett’s deed to Mr. White. These issues resulted in a court case that went all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court for review.
When Mr. Swett conveyed the land to Mr. White, he put a specific condition on the deed which required Mr. White to develop some kind of building on the land and then live there part-time or full-time. The deed condition specified that Mr. White had to fulfill this task within ten years from the date of the deed. If he failed to do so, the land must be conveyed to a person named Brigitte Gaudreau.
As it turned out, Mr. White failed to comply with the condition of the deed. He never lived on the property, nor did he build anything on it. This prompted Brigitte Gaudreau (now Brigitte Auger), to seek ownership of the property because Mr. White failed to comply with the deed’s condition.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court Decision
On January 11th, 2019, the New Hampshire Supreme Court made a decision on the case of Quentin H. White v. Brigitte Auger et al. According to Mr. White, the lengthy legal description of the deed was complicated and didn’t make it clear that he had to build anything on the land within a 10-year period. The Supreme Court didn’t agree with his argument because they found the deed’s condition clear enough to be understood. The Court declared the property must be conveyed to Ms. Gaudreau as outlined in the deed.
Mr. White’s setbacks continued to get worse. As it turned out, Mr. Swett created a Last Will and Testament, where he bestowed numerous assets and gifts to Mr. White, such as a piece of his home farm. However, Mr. White willingly refused any claim to Mr. Swett’s home farm property because he believed he owned the other land property free and clear. But when he lost the land property to Ms. Gaudreau, he couldn’t go back and try to reclaim the home farm property that had been willed to him because he had already relinquished his claim.
In the end, Mr. White got nothing for his generosity except a lot of headaches and legal battles. Perhaps his initial action of ripping up the deed was the right one.
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