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.
I. A reversion (a) is a future estate in land which "reverts" or returns to the person who originally had the fee simple or to his heirs.
Thus A is tenant in fee simple of land, and grants it to B for life; on the death of B the land will revert to A or his heirs.
II. A Remainder. - When the tenant in fee simple creates a particular estate, and then gives the rest of the fee simple to another person, that person has a remainder.
Thus, A is tenant in fee simple of land, and grants it to B for life, and after B's death to C and his heirs. C has a remainder.
Thus a remainder is an estate given to a person after some other estate shall have come to an end, and it may be defined as follows -
A remainder is a future estate which waits for and depends upon the termination of some particular estate.
There are two kinds of remainders, viz. vested remainders and contingent remainders. A "contingent remainder" does not necessarily mean "a remainder which depends on a contingency"; but the true test is as follows: -
(a) A vested remainder is one which is ready, from its commencement to its end, to take effect so soon as the particular estate shall determine.
E.g. land is granted to A for life, and after his death to B for life.
(a) The phrase "reversionary interest" is often used loosely to denote any future or contingent interest in any kind of property.
At first sight B's estate might be thought to be a contingent remainder, for B will get nothing unless he survives A. B's estate is however a vested remainder, because if A were to die immediately, B, so long as he lives, is ready to take the land.
(b) A contingent remainder is one which, is not ready from its commencement to its end to take effect so soon as some particular estate shall determine.
E.g. land is granted to A (a bachelor) for life, and after his death to his first son who shall reach 21.
The son of A has a contingent remainder; for if A were to die immediately, there is no son of A ready to take the land.
If the son of A reaches 21 in his father's lifetime, the remainder becomes vested, for he is then ready to take it at any moment.
At common law no other forms of future estate were allowed.
Thus, it was impossible to give the fee simple to A until some event, and then to B; or to give the fee simple to A after the happening of some event.
But in equity it was allowed, and therefore could be done either by means of a use or trust or by a will.
Thus, land could be given to X in fee simple to the use of A and his heirs until some event, and then to the use of B and his heirs. This was not a " remainder," because B's estate did not wait until the termination of the fee simple given to A, but took effect in spite of it. This form of future estate is called an "executory interest."
An executory interest is a future estate which does not wait for or depend upon the termination of any particular estate.
An executory interest can only be created either -
(1) By means of a use or trust -
It is then called either (a) a springing use,
E.g. X grant lands to T and his heirs to the use of B and his heirs after the marriage of B. Here the use springs up at a future time.
or (b) a shifting use.
E.g. X grants lands to T and his hens, to the use of A and his heirs until the marriage of B, and then to B and his heirs.
Here on the happening of the future event the use shifts from A to B.
(2) By will.
It is then called an "executory devise." Thus, before the statute of uses a future legal estate could only be created as a remainder: but since the Act the use carries the legal estate, and future legal estates can now be created by means of springing and shifting uses.
E.g. In the last example, the legal estate now passes to B on his marriage.
All future estates, whether reversions, remainders, or executory interests, may now he-transferred by deed (a).
(a) Real Property Amendment Act, 1845.