Legal Memorandum: Declaratory Judgment in Construing Deeds

Issue: In the Virgin Islands, may a declaratory judgment be used to construe a deed or other document in the case of mutual mistake?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Estate Planning & Probate, Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Declaratory judgment; Construing deeds and wills; Mutual mistake
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 73 F. Supp. 771; 35 F. Supp. 2d 459
Cited Statutes: 5 V.I.C. ' 1261, 1262; 15 V.I.C. ' 501
Date: 12/01/2000

It is a matter of settled law in Virgin Islands courts that declaratory judgments are an appropriate remedy.  5 V.I.C. ‘ 1261 states:

Courts of record within their respective jurisdictions shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed.  No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment or decree is prayed for.  The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect; and such declarations shall have the force and effect of a final judgment or decree.


It is also settled law that declaratory judgments are appropriate in construing both deeds and wills.  5 V.I.C. ‘ 1262 states:

Any person interested under a deed, will, written contract or other writings constituting a contract, or whose rights, status or other legal relations are affected by a statute, municipal ordinance, contract or franchise, may have determined any question of construction or validity arising under the instrument, statute, ordinance, contract, or franchise and obtain a declaration of rights, status or other legal relations thereunder.

In the Virgin Islands, courts have the right, in dealing with estates, to quiet title to real property.  15 V.I.C. ‘ 501 provides:

When any real estate has been heretofore or shall be hereafter sold by any executor or administrator under or by virtue of an order of the district court and the sale shall have been […]


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