Selected Terms in Land Law

Mediæval Dictionary: A Selective Glossary of Terms in Land Law

  • Estate: an interest in land. By the Common Law, no-one owns land in England save the Sovereign. All others have greater or lesser interests or estates in the land.
  • Fee Simple: the most absolute interest which a subject can possess in land. The owner can sell or otherwise alienate the land. In grants denoted by the words ‘… to A and his heirs’.
  • Fee Tail: land whose descent is limited to heirs of the body of the original grantee.
  • Feoff, Feoffee, Feoffment: a feoff is a freehold legal estate in land, granted to the feoffee and transferred to him by a feoffment, with Livery of Seisin, (q.v.)
  • Law and Equity: the Common Law is the ancient unwritten law of England, administered in the Common Law Courts and embodied in judicial decisions. It was sometimes rigid and unjust in particular cases; suitors would then apply to the Chancellor as ‘Keeper of the King’s Conscience’ for equitable relief. These cases in Equity were heard in what became by the fifteenth century, the Court of the Chancery.
  • Livery of Seisin: investiture of possession, sometimes by delivery of a clod of earth or other physical thing from the land.
  • Real Property: land which would descend to the heir-at-law. Property which devolved on the executor or administrator for distribution on death was Personal Property; this category contained leasehold interests in land, as well as moveable property.
  • Seisin: feudal possession of a freehold estate; not applicable to leasehold estates or beneficial ownership under a Use, (q.v.).
  • Tenure: the manner of holding land. Freehold land could be held by military tenure (by rendering knight’s service), in socage tenure (by paying a money rent), or by spiritual tenure (by rendering spiritual services).
  • Use: the equitable right to receive the profits from land from the owner at law. When X granted land to Y to the use of Z, X was the grantor or feoffor, Y became the new legal owner and the feoffee to uses, and Z the beneficial or equitable owner under the use. Uses (which evaded certain feudal principles) were abolished by the Statute of Uses in 1535. — MO’R