20. An estate tail is an estate of inheritance which descends only to the heirs of the body of the donee or to some special class of such heirs.
An estate tail is a freehold estate of inheritance, with the peculiarity that, on the death of the tenant, only the heirs of his body, or some particular description of them, can inherit This limitation of the inheritance to the heirs of one's body, instead of to the general heirs, is the distinguishing feature of an estate tail.1 Only heirs in the direct descending line can inherit Thus, a brother of a tenant in tail cannot take.2 The one who makes a "gift," as it is called, of an estate tail, is called the "donor," and the one to whom the estate is given is called the "donee."3 An estate tail is a smaller interest in land than a fee simple. If the owner of a fee simple makes a grant of an estate tail, an estate still remains in him, called a "reversion."4 If at any time there is a failure of heirs within the description of those, entitled to take under the gift, the property reverts to the donor or his heirs. Where the donor of an estate tail, by the same instrument which creates it, gives the interest which remains in him to a third person, the estate of such third person is called a "remainder."5
1 Goodright v. Morningstar, 1 Yeates (Pa.) 313; Corbin v. Healy, 20 Pick. (Mass.) 514; Riggs v. Sally, 15 Me. 408. Cf. Reinhart v. Lantz, 37 Pa. St. 488.
2 2 Bl Comm. 113.
3 2 Bl Comm. 110.