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Collected Papers on the English Law

A Concise Treatise on Terminating the Life Estate

Book 5

Estates in Reversion

♥ Caution Reversion is ALL COMMON LAW not EQUITY, if you do not understand the first 4 books you will assume the definitions and capacities of EQUITY, Common Law is the law of LAND TENURE, not the law of the corporate person


  • Introduction
  • Life Estate
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  • Sources Members Only

  • List of the sources we are going to be covering in this book 5 Reversion

    Statute Westminster 2nd

    Magna Charta 1225

    Cestui Que Act 1666

    Bill of Rights 1688


    Comm.Litt caducary escheat 245Book 5 is based on Commentaries upon Littleton

    Other supporting scholars books will be added

    Book 1 of Commentaries upon Littleton has the charts and describes the different capacities in english law

    Book 2 of Commentaries upon Littleton has the remedies listed in the charts in Book 1

    Estate in Reversion

    Blackstone Commentaries 2

    BOOK 2, CHAPTER 11

    Of Estates in Possession, Remainder, and Reversion

    HITHERTO we have considered estates solely with regard to their duration, or the quantity of interest which the owners have therein. We are now to consider them in another view; with regard to the time of their enjoyment, when the actual pernancy of the profits (that is, the taking, perception, or receipt, of the rents and other advantages arising therefrom) begins. Estates therefore, with respect to this consideration, may either be in possession, or in expectancy: and of expectancies there are two sorts; one created by act of the parties, called a remainder; the other by act of law, and called a reversion.

    estates in possession

    I. Of estates in possession, (which are sometimes called estates executed, whereby a present interest passes to and resides in the tenant, not depending on any subsequent circumstance or contingency, as in the case of estates executory) there is little or nothing peculiar to be observed. All the estates we have hitherto spoken of are of this kind; for, in laying down general rules, we usually apply them to such estates as are then actually in the tenant’s possession. But the doctrine of estates in expectancy contains some of the nicest and most abstruse learning in the English law. These will therefore require a minute discussion, and demand some degree of attention.

    estate then in remainder

    II. An estate then in remainder may be defined to be, an estate limited to take effect and be enjoyed after another estate is determined. As if a man seized in fee-simple grants lands to A for twenty years, and, after the determination of the said term, then to B and his heirs for ever: here A is tenant for years, remainder to B in fee. In the first place an estate for years is created or carved out of the fee, and given to A; and the residue or remainder of it is given to B. But both these interests are in fact only one estate; the present term of years and the remainder afterwards, when added together, being equal only to one estate in fee. They are indeed different parts, but they constitute only one whole: they are carved out of one and the same inheritance: they are both created, and may both subsist, together; the one in possession, the other in expectancy. So if land be granted to A for twenty years, and after the determination of the said term to B for life; and, after the determination of B’s estate for life, it be limited to C and his heirs for ever: this makes A tenant for years, with remainder to B for life, remainder over to C in fee. Now here the estate of inheritance undergoes a division into three portions: there is first A’s estate for years carved out of it; and after that B’s estate for life; and then the whole that remains is limited to C and his heirs. And here also the first estate, and both the remainders, for life and in fee, are one estate only; being nothing but parts or portions of one entire inheritance: and if there were a hundred remainders, it would still be the same thing; upon a principle grounded on mathematical truth, that all the parts are equal, and no more than equal, to the whole. And hence also it is easy to collect, that no remainder can be limited after the grant of an estate in fee-simple: because a fee-simple is the highest and largest estate, that a subject is capable of enjoying; and he that is tenant in fee has in him the whole of the estate: a remainder therefore, which is only a portion, or residuary part, of the estate, cannot be reserved after the whole is disposed of. A particular estate, with all the remainders expectant thereon, is only one fee-simple; as 40£ is part of 100£ and 60£ is the remainder of it: wherefore, after a fee-simple once vested, there can no more be a remainder limited thereon, than after the whole 100£ is appropriated there can be any residue subsisting.

    estate in reversion

    III. An estate in reversion is the residue of an estate left in the grantor, to commence in possession after the determination of some particular estate granted out by him. Sir Edward Coke describes a reversion to be the returning of land to the grantor or his heirs after the grant is over. As, if there be a gift in tail, the reversion of the fee is, without any special reservation, vested in the donor by act of law: and so also the reversion, after an estate for life, years, or at will, continues in the lessor. For the fee-simple of all lands must abide somewhere; and if he, who was before possessed of the whole, carves out of it any smaller estate, and grants it away, whatever is not so granted remains in him. A reversion is therefore never created by deed or writing, but arises from construction of law; a remainder can never be limited, unless by either deed or devise. But both are equally transferable, when actually vested, being both estates in praesenti, though taking effect in futuro.

    The doctrine of reversions is plainly derived from the feudal constitution. For, when a feud was granted to a man for life, or to him and his issue male, rendering either rent, or other services; then, on his death or the failure of issue male, the feud was determined and resulted back to the lord or proprietor, to be again disposed of at his pleasure. And hence the usual incidents to reversions are said to be fealty and rent. When no rent is reserved on the particular estate, fealty however results of course, as an incident quite inseparable, and may be demanded as a badge of tenure, or acknowledgment of superiority; being frequently the only evidence that the lands are held at all. Where rent is reserved, it is also incident, though not inseparably so, to the reversion The rent may be granted away, reserving the reversion; and the reversion may be granted away, reserving the reversion; and the reversion may be granted away, reserving the rent; by special words: but by a general grant of the reversion, the rent will pass with it, as incident thereunto; though by the grant of the rent generally, the reversion will not pass. The incident passes by the grant of the principal, but not e converso [on the other hand]: for the maxim of law is, “accessorium non ducit, sed sequitur, suum principale” [“the accessory does not precede but follows his principal”].

    These incidental rights of the reversioner, and the respective modes of descent, in which remainders very frequently differ from reversions, have occasioned the law to be careful in distinguishing the one from the other, however inaccurately the parties themselves may describe them. For if one, seized of a paternal estate in fee, makes a lease for life, with remainder to himself and his heirs, this is properly a mere reversion, to which rent and fealty shall be incident; and which shall only descend to the heirs of his father’s blood, and not to his heirs general, as a remainder limited to him by a third person would have done: for it is the old estate, which was originally in him, and never yet was out of him. And so likewise, if a man grants a lease for life to A, reserving rent, with reversion to B and his heirs, B has a remainder descendible to his heirs general, and not a reversion to which the rent is incident; but the grantor shall be entitled to the rent, during the continuance of A’s estate.

    In order to assist such persons as have any estate in remainder, reversion, or expectancy, after the death of others, against fraudulent concealments of their deaths, it is enacted by the statute 6 Ann. c. 18. that all persons on whose lives any lands or tenements are held, shall (upon application to the court of chancery and order made thereupon) once in every year, if required, be produced to the court, or its commissioners; or, upon neglect or refusal, they shall be taken to be actually dead, and the person entitled to such expectant estate may enter upon and hold the lands and tenements, till the party shall appear to be living.

    Before we conclude the doctrine of remainders and reversions, it may be proper to observe, that whenever a greater estate and a less coincide and meet in one and the same person, without any intermediate estate, the less is immediately annihilated; or, in the law phrase, is said to be merged, that is, sunk or drowned, in the greater. Thus, if there be tenant for years, and the reversion in fee-simple descends to or is purchased by him, the term of years is merged in the inheritance, and shall never exist any more. But they must come to one and the same person in one and the same right; else, if the freehold be in his own right, and he has a term in right of another (en auter droit) there is no merger. Therefore, if tenant for years dies, and makes him who has the reversion in fee his executor, whereby the term of years vests also in him, the term shall not merge; for he has the fee in his own right, and the term of years in the right of the testator, and subject to is debts and legacies. So also, if he who has the reversion in fee marries the tenant for years, there is no merger; for he has the inheritance in his own right, the lease in the right of his wife. An estate-tail is an exception to this rule: for a man may have in his own right both an estate-tail and a reversion in fee; and the estate-tail, though a less estate, shall not merge in the fee. For estates-tail are protected and preserved from merger by the operation and construction, though not by the express word, of the statute de donis: which operation and construction have probably arisen upon this consideration; that, in the common cases of merger of estates for life or years by uniting with the inheritance, the particular tenant has the sole interest in them, and has full power at any time to defeat, destroy, or surrender them to him that has the reversion; therefore, when such an estate unites with the reversion in fee, the law considers it in the light of a virtual surrender of the inferior estate. But, in an estate-tail, the case is otherwise: the tenant for a long time had no power at all over it, so as to bar or to destroy it; and now can only do it by certain special modes, by a fine, a recovery, and the like: it would therefore have been strangely improvident, to have permitted the tenant in tail, b purchasing the reversion in fee, to merge his particular estate, and defeat the inheritance of his issue: and hence it has become a maxim, that a tenancy in tail, which cannot be surrendered, cannot also be merged in the fee.

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    Commentaries on American Law (1826-30)


    Of Estates In Reversion

    A REVERSION is the return of land to the grantor, and his heirs, after the grant is over;  or, according to the formal definition in the New York Revised Statutes, it is the residue of an estate left in the grantor, or his heirs, or in the heirs of a testator, commencing in possession on the determination of a particular estate granted or devised. It necessarily assumes, that the original owner has not parted with his whole estate or interest in the land; and, therefore, if he grants land in tail, or for life, or years, he has an interest in the reversion, because “he has not departed with his whole estate. If A. has only a possibility of reverter, as in the case of a qualified or conditional fee at common law, he has no reversion; and such a distinct interest arose, as we have already seen, after the conditional fee at common law was, by the statute de donis, turned into an estate tail.

    The doctrine of reversions is said, by Sir William Blackstone, to have been plainly derived from the feudal constitution. It would have been more correct to have said, that some of the incidents attached to a reversion were of feudal growth, such as fealty, and the varying rule of descent between the cases of a reversion arising out of the original estate, and one limited by the grant of a third person. Reversion, in the general sense, as being a return of the estate to the original owner, after the limited estate carved out of it had determined, must be familiar to the laws of all nations who have admitted of private property in land. The practice of hiring land for a limited time, and paying rent to the owner of the soil, (and which is one of the usual incidents to a reversion,) was not only known to the Roman law, but it was regulated in the code of the ancient Hindus.

    The reversion arises by operation of law, and not by deed or will, and it is a vested interest or estate, inasmuch as the person entitled to it has a fixed right of future enjoyment. It is an incorporeal hereditament, and may be conveyed either in whole or in part, by grant, without livery of seizin. Reversions expectant on the determination of estates for years, are immediate assets in the hands of the heir; but the reversion expectant on the determination of an estate for life, is not immediate assets during the continuance of the life estate, and the creditor takes judgment for assets in futuro  If the reversion be expectant on an estate tail, it is not assets during the continuance of the estate tail, and the reason assigned is, that the reversion is of little or no value, since it is in the power of the tenant in tail to destroy it when he pleases. But in Kinarton v. Clarke, Lord Hardwicke considered it inaccurate to say that such a reversion was not assets, for there was a possibility of its becoming an estate in possession, and the creditor might take judgment against the heir, on that possibility, for assets, quando acciderint, and which would, operate whenever the heir obtained seizin of the reversion. In the mean time, as it was admitted, the reversion could not be sold, nor the heir compelled to sell it; and when it comes to the possession of the heir, he takes it cum onere, subject to all leases and covenants made by the tenant in tail while he had the estate.

    The reversioner having a vested interest in the reversion, is entitled to his action for an injury done to the inheritance. He is entitled to an action on the case, in the nature of waste, against a stranger, while the estate is in the possession of the tenant. The injury must be of such a permanent nature as to affect the reversionary right. The usual incidents to the reversion, under the English law, are fealty and rent. The former, in the feudal sense, does not exist any longer in this country, but the latter, which is a very important incident, passes with a grant or assignment of the reversion. It is not inseparable, and may be severed from the reversion, and excepted out of the grant, by special words.

    Kent Commentaries

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    Reversion (law)

    From Wikipedia

    A reversion in property law is a future interest that is retained by the grantor after the conveyance of an estate of a lesser quantum that he has (such as the owner of a fee simple granting a life estate or a leasehold estate). Once the lesser estate comes to an end (the lease expires or the life estate tenant dies), the property automatically reverts (hence reversion) back to the grantor.

    A reversion interest is logically similar, but not legally identical, to the rights retained by someone who lends his property to another for a limited time. Although the bailee would have the right to possess the property during the limited duration, these rights are neither permanent nor exclusive. When the time comes, the property rights of possession will terminate and return to the holder of the reversion.

    Reversions are commonly created in real property transactions, particularly during lease arrangements as well as devise (the transfer of real property through a will). In the context of a will, a testator may devise a simple life estate to a devisee. The testator may retain the reversion in the estate or give it to another individual. The owner of the life estate will retain ownership of the property during the devisee's life, and may freely alienate this interest. However, upon the death of the devisee the life estate will terminate and ownership of the real-property will fully vest in the holder of the reversion.

    A tenancy for years is a simple illustration of a reversion interest in the context of leasing arrangements. An owner of real-property becomes a lessor by transferring a bundle of rights - including a right of entry - to the leasee for a certain period of time. The lessor typically retains a reversion interest in the property which will mature after the lease expires. A common example of this transaction is the leasing of an apartment to a tenant for a one-year period. When the lease expires, the rights of the leasee are terminated and exclusive ownership of the property returns to the lessor.

    Reversion should not be confused with the possibility of reverter created in the grant of a fee simple determinable. Although both result in the return of the land to the original grantor or his heirs, reversions occur upon the natural expiration of the grantee's estate, while the possibility of reverter actively ends the grantee's otherwise-indefinite estate as a consequence of the grantee's failure to comply with the condition contained in the grant.

    Unlike some other future interests, reversions have always been fully alienable.




    A species of estate in expectancy, created by operation of law, being the residue of an estate left in the grantor, to commence in possession after the determination of some particular estate granted out by him. 2 B1. Comm. 175; 2 Crabb, Real Prop. p. 978, s 2845. The residue of an estate left in the grantor or his heirs, or in the heirs of a testator, commencing in possession on the determination of a particular estate granted or devised. 1 Rev. St. N. Y. p. 718, (723,) s 12. An estate in reversion is where any estate is derived, by grant or otherwise, out of a larger one, leaving in the original owner an ulterior estate immediately expectant on that which is so derived; the latter interest being called the “particular estate,” as being only a small part or particula of the original one,) and the ulterior interest, the “reversion.” 1 Steph. Comm. 290. See REVERSION.

    Related Legal Terms & Definitions

    • REVERSION In real property law. A reversion is the residue of an estate left by operation…
    • REMAINDER The remnant of an estate in land, depending upon a particular prior estate created at…
    • REVERSIONER estates. One entitled to a reversion. 2. Although not in actual possession, the reversioner having…
    • RESIDUE (A) See residuary estate. (B) That which remains of something after taking away a part…
    • ENLARGER L'ESTATE A species of release which inures by way of enlarging an estate, and consists of…
    • ESTATE UPON CONDITION An estate in lands, the existence of which depends upon the happening or not happening…
    • ESTATE IN FEE-TAIL Generally termed an "estate tail." An estate of inheritance which a man has, to hold…
    • ESTATE IN FEE-SIMPLE The estate which a man has where lands are given to him and to his…



    Any future interest kept by a person who transfers property to another.

    A reversion occurs when a property owner makes an effective transfer of property to another but retains  some future right tothe property. For example, if Sara transfers a piece of property to Shane for life,  Shane has the use of the property for therest of his life. Upon his death, the property reverts, or goes back, to Sara, or if Sara has died, it goes to her heirs. Shane'sinterest in the property, in this example is a life estate.

    Sara's ownership interest during Shane's life, and her right or the rightof her heirs to take back the  property upon Shane's death, are called reversionary interests.

    A reversion differs from a remainder because a reversion arises through the operation of law rather than  by act of the parties.A remainder is a future interest that is created in some person other than the  grantor or transferor, whereas a reversioncreates a future interest in the grantor or his or her heirs.

     If Sara's transfer had been "to Shane for life, then to Lily," Lily'sinterest would be a remainder.




    n. in real property, the return to the grantor or his/her heirs of real property after all interests in  the property given to othershas terminated.

     Examples: George Generous deeded property to the local hospital district for "use for health facilities  only,"and the hospital is eventually torn down and the property is now vacant. The property reverts to  George's descendants;George wills the property to his sister's children only, who later died without  children. When the last grandchild dies theproperty reverts to George's descendants. Reversion is also  called "reverter." (See: reverter)


    (Act of returning), noun about-face, recidivism, regress, regression, relapse, retroaction,  retrocession, retrogradation, retrogression, retroversion, return, reversal, reverse, reverting,  throwback, turnabout, turnaround


    (Remainder of an estate), noun future innerest, future possession, hereditas, remainder over, residue, right of future enjoyment, right of future possession, right of succession Associated concepts: equitable reversion, life estate, partial reversion, reversionary interest, right of reversion

    See also: continuation, decline, defeasance, devolution, expiration, heritage, lapse, nolloprosequi,  recidivism, reconversion, recovery, recrudescence, relapse, remainder, restitution, resumption,  resurgence, reversal


     an interest in an estate that reverts to the grantor or his heirs at the end of a period, such as at the end of the life of a grantee; or an estate so reverting.

    REVERSION, estates. The residue of an estate left in the grantor, to commence in possession after the  determination of some particular estate granted out by him; it is also defined to be the return of land  to the grantor,and his heirs, after thegrant is over. Co. Litt. 142, b.

    2. The reversion arises by operation of law, and not by deed or will, and it is a vested interest or estate,  and in this itdiffers from a remainder, which can never be limited unless by either deed or devise.  2 Bl. Comm. 175; Cruise, Dig. tit. 17;Plowd. 151; 4 Kent, Comm. 349; 19 Vin. Ab. 217; 4 Com. Dig. 27;  7 Com. Dig. 289: 1 Bro. Civil Law, 213 Wood's Inst. 151 2Lill. Ab. 483.

    A reversion is said to be an incorporeal hereditament. Vide 4 Kent, Com. 354. See, generally,  1 Hill. Ab. c. 52, p.418; 2 Bouv. Inst. n. 1850, et seq.


    F.W. Maitland and the Riddle of the Modern World

    Alan Macfarlane discusses Maitlands works and details his discoveries in the Use of Trusts in the creation of Corporations, plus the effects of the Trust process in society.

    Alan Donald James Macfarlane FBA FRHistS (born 20 December 1941 in Shillong, Meghalaya, India) is an anthropologist and historian and a Professor Emeritus of King's College, Cambridge. He is the author or editor of 20 books and numerous articles on the anthropology and history of England, Nepal, Japan and China. He has focused on comparative study of the origins and nature of the modern world. In recent years he has become increasingly interested in the use of visual material in teaching and research. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society.


    Macfarlane was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and Sedbergh School. He then read Modern History at Worcester College, University of Oxford, from 1960 to 1963, completing a Bachelor of Arts and went on to his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy on Witchcraft prosecutions in Essex, 1560–1680: A Sociological Analysis, in 1967. He also completed a Master of Philosophy in Anthropology on 'The regulation of marital and sexual relationships in 17th century England' at the London School of Economics in 1968 and a second Doctorate in Anthropology on 'Population and resources in central Nepal' in 1972 at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London.

    He went on to be a Research Fellow in History at King's College, University of Cambridge. In 1975, he was appointed Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, becoming a Reader in Historical Anthropology in 1981 and then a full Professor of Anthropological Science and Personal Chair in 1991. He became Emeritus Professor of Anthropological Science at the University of Cambridge and a Life Fellow of King's College, Cambridge in 2009.

    Literary works and collaborations

    Macfarlane's work on modernity acknowledges his Enlightenment roots. His Riddle of the Modern World (2000) and Making of the Modern World (2001) are contributions to the field of history of ideas, addressing the work of Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, Ernest Gellner, Yukichi Fukuzawa and Frederic Maitland.


    Lecture on F.W.Maitland (1850-1906)

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