A grant to A. B. simply confers only a life estate.
This rule has often defeated testators' intentions.
(n) Litt. sect. 283; Co. Litt. 42 a; 2 Black. Com. l2l; Lucas r. Brandreth. 28 Bear. 274
(o) 2 Jarman on Wills, 170,
1st ed.; 219, 2nd ed.; 247, 3rd ed., and the cases there cited.
(p) In Hogan v. Jackson, Cowp. 306.
If the owner of an estate for his own life should dispose thereof, the new owner will become entitled to an estate for the life of the former. This, in the Norman French, with which our law still abounds, is called an estate pur autre vie (r); and the person for whose life the land is holden is called the cestui que vie. In this case, as well as in that of an original grant, the new owner was formerly entitled only so long as he lived to enjoy the property, unless the grant were expressly extended to his heirs; so that, in case of the decease of the new owner, in the lifetime of the cestui que vie, the land was left without an occupant so long as the life of the latter continued, for the law would not allow him to re-enter after having parted with his life estate (s). No person having therefore a right to the property, anybody might enter on the land; and he that first entered might lawfully retain possession so long as the cestui que vie lived (t). The person who had so entered was called a general occupant. If, however, the estate had been granted to a man and his heirs during the life of the cestui que vie, the heir might, and still may, enter and hold possession, and in such a case he is called in law a special occupant, having a special right of occupation by the terms of the grant (u). To remedy the evil occasioned by property remaining without an owner, it was provided by a clause in a famous statute passed in the reign of King Charles II. (v), that the owner of an estate pur autre vie might dispose thereof by his will; that if no such disposition should be made, the heir, as occupant, should be charged with the debts of his ancestor; or, in case there should be no special occupant, it should go to his executors or administrators, and be subject to the payment of his debts, of course only during the residue of the life of the cestui que vie. In the construction of this enactment a question arose, whether or not, supposing the owner of an estate pur autre vie died without a will, the administrator was to be entitled for his own benefit, after paying the debts of the deceased. An explanatory act was accordingly passed in the reign of King George II. (x), by which the surplus, after payment of debts, was, in case of intestacy, made distributable amongst the next of kin, in the same manner as personal estate. By the statute for the amendment of the laws with respect to wills(y), the above enactments were both replaced by more comprehensive provisions to the same effect.
An estate pur autre vie.
Statute of Frauds.
(q) 7 Will. IV. & 1 Vict. c. 26, s. 28.
(r) Litt. sect. 56.
(s) In very early times the law was otherwise. Bract, lib. ii. c. 9, fol. 27 a; lib. iv. tr. 3, c. 9, par. iv.
fol. 2G3 a; Fleta, lib. iii. c. 12, s. 6; lib. v. c. 5, s. 15.
(t) Co. Litt. 41 b; 2 Black. Com. 258.
(u) Atkinson v. Baker, 4 T. Rep. 229.
When one person has an estate for the life of another, it is evidently his interest that the cestui que vie, or he for whose life the estate is holden, should live as long as possible; and, in the event of his decease, a temptation might occur to a fraudulent owner to conceal his death. In order to prevent any such fraud, it is provided, by an act of parliament passed in the reign of Queen Anne (z), that any person having any claim in remainder, reversion or expectancy, may, upon affidavit that he hath cause to believe; that the cestui que vie is dead, or that his death is concealed, obtain an order from the Lord Chancellor for the production of the cestui que vie in the method prescribed by the act; and, if such order be not complied with, then the cestui que vie shall be taken to be dead, and any person claiming any interest in remainder, or reversion or otherwise, may enter accordingly. The act, moreover, provides (a), that any person having any estate pur autre vie, who, after the determination of such estate, shall continue in possession of any lands, without the express consent of the persons next entitled, shall be adjudged a trespasser, and may be proceeded against accordingly.
Cestui que vie may be ordered to be produced.
(v) The Statute of Frauds, 29 Car. II. c. 3,s. 12..
(x) Stat. 14 Geo. II..c. 20, s. 9; see Co, Lilt. 41 b, n. (5).
(y) Stat. 7 Will. IV. & 1 Viet. C. 26, ss. 3, 6.
(z) Stat. G Anne, c. 18. See Ex parte Grant, 6 Ves. 512; Ex parti Whalley, 4 Russ. 561; Re Isaac, 4 Myl. & Craig, 18; Re Lingen, 12 Sim. 104.
The owner of an estate for life is called a tenant for life, for he is only a holder of the lands according to the feudal principles of our law. A tenant, either for his own life, or for the life of another (pur autre vie), hath an estate of freehold, and he that hath a less estate cannot have a freehold (b). Here, again, the reason is feudal. A life estate is such as was considered worthy the acceptance of a, free man; a less estate was not (c). And it is worthy of remark, that in the earlier periods of our law an estate for a man's own life was the only life estate considered of sufficient importance to be an estate of freehold: an estate for the life of another person was not then reckoned of equal rank (d). But this distinction has long since disappeared; and there are now some estates which may not even last a lifetime, but are yet considered in law as life estates, and are estates of freehold. Thus, an estate granted to a woman during her widowhood is in law a life estate, though determinable on her marrying again (e). Every life estate also may be determined by the civil death of the party, as well as by his natural death; for which reason in conveyances the grant is usually made for the term of a man's natural life (f). Formerly a person, by entering a monastery, and being professed in religion, became dead in law (g). But this doctrine is now inapplicable; for there is no longer any legal establishment for professed persons in England (h), and our law never took notice of foreign professions (i). Civil death may, however, occur by outlawry (j). It was formerly occasioned also by attainder for treason or felony; but all attainders are now abolished (k).