• Robert Spicer

Rule against perpetuities: mental torture for students?

The rule against perpetuities

This is a sort of mental torture for law students and a means of generating income for practitioners. It is one of many areas of impenetrable law with no relevance for the propertyless.

Thomas W. Hopes, in his authoritative book on perpetuities, states that he has never acquired the faculty of brief and concise statement. He has certainly acquired the faculty of understatement. Hopes states that the perpetuity rule can be split into 32 separate rules, for example:

  1. Any provision restraining a tenant in tail from barring the entail or limitations thereto is void.

  2. A life estate to an unborn person or to a person who may be unborn will not if it vests support a contingent remainder.

  3. Any future executory interest legal or equitable or equitable contingent remainder whose vesting in interest is subject to a condition precedent which will not necessarily happen within a life or lives in being and twenty-one years is void.

  4. The general rule is that no interest in property is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest, allowance being made for gestation only when it actually exists.

  5. Immediate questions:

  • What is a tenant in tail?

  • What is an entail?

  • What is a vest?

  • What is an equitable contingent remainder?These rules are of no interest or significance to anyone who is not a property owner.

  • They exist as a sort of deliberately impenetrable code, designed to mystify property rights for the material benefit of lawyers.

  • This Victorian conveyancing language is so far removed from normal English that it might as well be Martian.

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