Pendleton v. Hoomes

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First page of the opinion Pendleton v. Hoomes, in Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, with Remarks upon Decrees by the Court of Appeals, Reversing Some of Those Decisions, by George Wythe. 2nd ed. (Richmond: J. W. Randolph, 1852).

Pendleton v. Hoomes, Wythe 94 (1790), was a case discussing how an inheritance was to be split among surviving siblings.[1]


In his will, Joseph Hoomes left the remaining part of his estate "to be equaly divided between the children of my uncle Benjamin Hoomes and my cousin John Hoomes. . .share and share alike." John Hoomes, the defendant, was Joseph's legal heir (i.e., the person who would inherit property not designated to go to someone else by a will).

When Joseph created the will, Benjamin Hoomes had six children. One of these children, Martha, died about six months before Joseph. Benjamin's other five children gave their inheritance rights to the plaintiffs, Benjamin and James Pendleton.

The Pendletons filed a bill with the High Court of Chancery to claim Martha's share of the inheritance, claiming that Martha's inheritance became invalid when she died.

The Court's Decision

The High Court of Chancery found that Joseph's language about Benjamin's children referred to children living at the time the will was written, not the time the will was executed. To hold the other way, the Court said, would contravene Joseph's intent, since there is a possibility that English law would have required all of Martha's share to go to John, rather than having Benjamin's surviving children and John spilt the estate equally.


  1. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, 94 (Richmond: J.W. Randolph, 2d ed. 1852).