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Encyclopedia > Rule in Shelley's Case
Property law
Part of the common law series
Acquisition of property
Gift  · Adverse possession  · Deed
Lost, mislaid, and abandoned property
Bailment  · Licence
Estates in land
Allodial title  · Fee simple
Life estate  · Fee tail  · Future interest
Concurrent estate  · Leasehold estate
Condominiums
Conveyancing of interests in land
Bona fide purchaser  · Torrens title
Estoppel by deed  · Quitclaim deed
Mortgage  · Equitable conversion
Action to quiet title
Limiting control over future use
Restraint on alienation
Rule against perpetuities
Rule in Shelley's Case
Doctrine of worthier title
Nonpossessory interest in land
Easement  · Profit
Covenant running with the land
Equitable servitude
Related topics
Fixtures  · Waste  · Partition
Riparian water rights
Lateral and subjacent support
Assignment  · Nemo dat
Other areas of the common law
Contract law  · Tort law
Wills and trusts
Criminal Law  · Evidence

The Rule in Shelley's Case, dating from the 14th century, is a famous if now almost useless legal rule that is now the bane of most first-year law students studying common law real property law. It was reported by Lord Coke in England in the 17th century as well-settled law. In England it was abolished by the Law of Property Act, 1925. In the twentieth century it has been abolished in most common law jurisdictions, including most of the states of the United States. Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property, within the common law legal system. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... A gift, in the law of property, has a very specific meaning. ... In real estate common law, adverse possession is a means of acquiring title to anothers real property without compensation, by, as the name suggests, holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owners rights. ... A deed is a legal instrument used to grant a right. ... In the common law of property, personal belongings that have left the possession of their rightful owners without having directly entered the possession of another person are deemed to be lost, mislaid, or abandoned, depending on the circumstances under which they were found by the next party to come into... Bailment describes a legal relationship where physical possession of personal property (chattels) is transferred from one person (the bailor) to another person (the bailee) who subsequently holds possession of the property. ... A license or licence is a document or agreement giving permission to do something. ... Estate is a term used in the common law. ... Allodial title is a concept in some systems of property law. ... Fee simple, also known as fee simple absolute or allodial, is a term of art in common law. ... A life estate, at common law is an estate in real property that ends at death. ... Fee tail is an obsolescent term of art in common law. ... In property law and real estate, a future interest - is an interest that accompanies a defeasible estate. ... A concurrent estate or co-tenancy is a concept in property law, particularly derived from the common law of real property, which describes the various ways in which property can be owned by more than one person at a given time. ... A leasehold estate is an ownership interest in land in which a lessee or a tenant holds real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord. ... A condominium is a form of housing tenure. ... Conveyancing is the act of transferring the ownership of a property from one person to another. ... A bona fide purchaser (BFP)—or bona fide purchaser for value without notice (BFPFVWN)—in the law of real property, is an innocent party who purchases property for value, without notice of any other partys claim to the title of that property. ... Torrens title is a system of land title where a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees indefeasible title to those included in the register. ... Estoppel by deed is a doctrine in the law of real property that arises where a party conveys title to land that he does not own to a bona fide purchaser, and then acquires title to that land. ... A quitclaim deed is a term used in property law to describe a document by which a person disclaims any interest the grantor might have in a piece of real property, and passes that claim to another person (the grantee). ... A mortgage is a method of using property as security for the payment of a debt. ... Equitable conversion is a doctrine of the law of real property under which a purchaser of real property becomes the equitable owner of title to the property at the time that they sign a contract binding them to purchase the land at a later date. ... This page is a candidate to be copied to Wiktionary. ... In property law and real estate, a future interest - is an interest that accompanies a defeasible estate. ... A restraint on alienation, in the law of real property, is a clause used in the conveyance of real property that seeks to prohibit the recipient from selling or otherwise transferring his interest in the property. ... The rule against perpetuities is a rule in property law which prohibits a contingent grant or will from vesting outside a certain period of time. ... In the common law of England, the doctrine of worthier title was a legal doctrine that preferred taking title to real estate by descent over taking title by devise or by purchase. ... A nonpossessory interest in land is a term of the law of property to describe any of a category of rights held by one person to use land that is in the possession of another. ... NB: This article is manifestly incorrect outside of US law. ... A profit, in the law of real estate, is a nonpossessory interest in land similar to the better-known easement, which gives the holder the right to take natural resources such as petroleum, minerals, timber, and wild game from the land of another. ... A covenant running with the land, in the law of real property, is a nonpossessory interest in land in the form of an agreement between adjoining landowners to do or not do something with relation to the land that they respectively occupy - to maintain a fence, for example, or not... An equitable servitude is a term used in the law of real property to describe a nonpossessory interest in land that operates much like a covenant running with the land, requiring the landowner to maintain certain practices with respect to the land (e. ... In the law of real property, fixtures are anything that would otherwise be a chattel that have, by reason of incorporation or affixation, become permanently attached to the real property. ... Waste is a term used in the law of real property to describe a cause of action that can be brought in court to address a change in condition of real property brought about by a current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. ... A partition is a term used in the law of real property to describe the court-ordered division of a concurrent estate into separate portions representing the proportionate interests of the tenants. ... Riparian water rights is a system of allocating water among the property owners who abut its source. ... Lateral and subjacent support, in the law of property, describes the right a landowner has to have that land physically supported in its natural state by both adjoining land and underground structures. ... An assignment is a term used with similar meanings in the law of contracts and in the law of real estate. ... Nemo dat quod non habet, literally meaning no one [can] give what they dont have is a legal rule, sometimes called the nemo dat rule that states that the purchase of a possession from someone who has no ownership right to it also denies the purchaser any ownership title. ... A contract is any promise or set of promises made by one party to another for the breach of which the law provides a remedy. ... In the common law, a tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. ... In the common law, a will or testament is a document by which a person (the testator) regulates the rights of others over his property or family after death. ... The law of trusts and estates is generally considered the body of law which governs the management of personal affairs and the disposition of property of an individual in anticipation and the event of such persons incapacity or death, also known as the law of successions in civil law. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of common law that punishes criminals for committing offences against the state. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... This 14th-century statue from south India depicts the gods Shiva (on the left) and Uma (on the right). ... While Law is a part of society, the academic study of law, both as a science, that is, jurisprudence, and by students preparing to be lawyers is taught in the United States at specialized postgraduate law schools. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land as distinct from personal or movable possessions) and in personal property, within the common law legal system. ... Sir Edward Coke Sir Edward Coke (pronounced cook) (1 February 1552–3 September 1634), educated at Norwich School, was an early English colonial entrepreneur and jurist whose writings on the English common law were the definitive legal texts for some 300 years. ... Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit (Translated: God and my right) Englands location (dark green) within the United Kingdom (light green), with the Republic of Ireland (blue) to its west Languages English Capital London Largest city London Area – Total Ranked 1st UK 130,395 km² Population –mid-2004... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ... Precedent, sometimes authority, is the legal principle or rule created by a court which guides judges in subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. ... 1925 (MCMXXV) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will take you to calendar). ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... A U.S. state is any one of the 50 states which have membership of the federation known as the United States of America (USA or U.S.). The separate state governments and the U.S. federal government share sovereignty. ...


Law school curricula mention it, because legislation uses terms such as "the common law rule known as the Rule in Shelley's Case is hereby abolished," making it necessary to understand the old rule. // A law school is an institution where future lawyers obtain legal degrees. ...

Contents


History

The litigation was brought about by a settlement made by Sir Dick Bentley William Shelley VII (1480-1549), an English judge, of an estate he purchased on the dissolution of Sion Monastery. The decision was rendered by Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Bromley, who presided over an assembly of all the judges on the King's Bench to hear the case in Easter term 1580-1581. The rule existed in English common law long before that case was brought, but Shelley's case gave it its most famous application. A lawsuit is a civil action brought before a court in which the party commencing the action, the plaintiff, seeks a legal remedy. ...


Issue

The legal issue in Shelley's case dealt with the rights of a grantee's heirs when the deed of transfer attempts to confer a future interest, a remainder, to the heirs of the grantee. Ordinarily, upon the death of a Grantee who has been given a Life Estate, the Remainderman takes the property in Fee Simple Absolute. However, in this case, since the Remainderman specified were the Grantee's heirs, the court decided that the present and future interests merged in the hands of the Grantee, eliminating the Remainder and leaving a Fee Simple Absolute in the hands of the Grantee. Essentially, the Grantee's Estate is not obligated to convey the Property to the Remainderman upon the death of the grantee. Additionally, the Grantee is not subject to any of the duties of a Life Tenant to preserve the property. For other uses, see inheritance (disambiguation). ...


This conclusion prevented children from taking control of their parent's transferred property that had a limitation in which the grantor (either grandparent or future grandparent) had attempted to pass some right onto his grandchild(ren) (known as heirs of the body of the grantee) or other named heirs of the grantee; the language in the deed was a failed attempt to prevent the grantee from selling the property and thus depriving his heirs of property that would have to remain in the family thus promoting the right to transfer the land. In order to avoid the Rule in Shelley's Case, the fee tail was created by the common lawyers; by deeding land to X and the heirs of his body, they made it clear that the land so deeded could only pass to the children of the grantee. It should be noted that the Fee Tail has been virtually eliminated within the United States. Fee tail is an obsolescent term of art in common law. ...


The Rule Generalized

As simply as it can be stated it deals with remainders in the transfer of real property by deed. A remainder is a right that is carved out of the fee simple (or what might be termed absolute ownership in plain English) that has some future interest (not at the time of the granting of the deed) so that at some later date whomever was granted the remainder would have ownership rights in the property and those future rights would have to be preserved. The rights could not be sold. It has been explained as an attempt to prevent the sale of property once transferred by putting such limiting words in the deed of transfer. The factual accuracy of this article is disputed. ... Fee simple, also known as fee simple absolute or allodial, is a term of art in common law. ...


It is a classic example of common law legal reasoning and the logic involved in the interpretation of legal text which is why it continues to be an important teaching tool in the study of the common law. This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ...


Analysis

Some scholars (e.g., see John V. Orth, "The Rule in Shelley's Case," The Green Bag, Autumn 2003) believe that this "promote the right to transfer the land" explanation of the origin of the Rule is inaccurate. In their view the Rule originated as the courts' response to an estate-planning technique in the 14th century, long before the litigation in Shelley's Case. A tax known as the "relief" had to be paid to the feudal lord (the Crown) when a tenant's heir inherited the land. In order to avoid this estate tax, if the grant to the land were framed in term of a life estate in the grantee followed by a remainder in the grantee's heirs, then upon the grantee's death his heirs would not inherit the land, but received it as a vested remainder. As a consequence, the heir would take the land without having to pay the relief. The courts could not abide such a transparent attempt to circumvent the tax system, and the Rule was invented to deal with this problem by converting these transfers into fee simples absolute so as to allow the relief to be collected upon the grantee's death. Later, when the relief was abolished, the Rule continued to survive in the common law due to inertia ("it is the genius of the common law to add, but not to subtract"), the "promote the right to transfer the land" explanation was concocted to explain the continued existence of the Rule.

As stated by Lord William Coke in his argument for the defendant in the case
It is a rule of law, when the ancestor by any gift or conveyance takes an estate in freehold, and in the same gift or conveyance an estate is limited mediately or immediately to his heirs in fee or in tail; that always in such cases the heirs are words of limitation of the [ancestor's] estate and not words of purchase.

See also

  • Rule against perpetuities
  • Lawrence W. Waggoner, Estates in land and future interests in a nutshell 2nd ed. (West Publishing: St. Paul, 1993), ch. 11

 
 

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