This section is from the book "Real Property, An Introductory Explanation Of The Law Relating To Land", by Alfred F Topham. Also available from Amazon: The New Law Of Property.
Land may be granted "to A for his life," A then becomes a "tenant for life," or a life estate may be created by a grant of land to "A"; for, as we have seen, if no words of limitation are added to a grant of land, the grantee is presumed to take a life estate only - the word "heirs" must be added if his estate is to endure after his death.
Effect of a gift of land " to A."
(1) In a will a gift "to A" is sufficient to give him the whole fee simple (see pp. 104 and 105).
(2) In a deed, it gives him only a life estate.
History. - I. At Common Law a gift of land "to A" simply gave A a life estate only, whether the gift was contained in a deed, or in a will.
But if in a will the testator gave "all my estate to A," or used other similar words, A would take the whole estate or interest which the testator had.
Hogan v. Jackson, Cowp. 303.
The testator gave life estates to his mother and others, and then said, "I give to my mother all the remainder of my effects, real and personal."
Held, this meant the remainder in fee simple.
The effect of the common law rule was to create much hardship in the case of wills; for a testator who made his own will would give his land "to A," meaning to give an absolute interest, and would not know anything of the rule which required words of limitation. This rule is now altered in the case of wills.
II. By the Wills Act, 1837 (a), s. 28. A devise (i.e. a gift by will) of land without words of limitation passes the whole fee simple, or whatever other estate the testator had in the land.
(For the exact words of this section see p. 309).
(b) Deeds. - The old rule still remains, and a grant of land by deed "to A" gives A a life estate only.
At common law it was absolutely necessary in order to give a fee simple, that the word "heirs" should be used. Since the Conveyancing Act, 1881, the words "in fee simple" may be used instead, or the words "in tail" to create an estate tail. But if any other words are used the grantee takes a life estate only (see p. 25, ante).