Under The Poor Laws, the right which one acquires to be considered a resident of a particular place, and to claim relief from such city, town, or village, if he stands in need of it. The conditions determining settlement are almost entirely prescribed by statutes, which provide generally in respect to adults that their residence in any place for a defined term of years gives them a settlement therein. A married woman has the same settlement as her husband, though if he has none within the state it may be provided that her own at the time of the marriage, within the state, is not lost or suspended. Legitimate children have the settlement of the father, or of the mother if the father has none in the state. Illegitimate children take the settlement of the mother. In different states serving under articles of apprenticeship or for wages, and the payment of taxes, are made to give a right to a settlement.
In The Limitation Or Disposition Of Property, a deed or instrument commonly made previous to or in contemplation of marriage, the object of which is generally to limit property in such modes and to such uses as will assure a provision for the wife and the issue of the marriage. Settlements may be made by the wife, but then they are very often made in consideration of a settlement by the husband; or they may be made mutually by husband and wife upon a separation, during the coverture. The common law troubles itself but little with the equitable right of a woman to retain after her marriage some enjoyment of her own property, but chancery has to a considerable extent interposed in her favor. Whenever the husband was compelled to seek its assistance in order to reach the wife's property, chancery obliged him to make equitable settlements out of it in the wife's behalf. It invented also and supported, for the wife's benefit, the contrivance of a separate use and estate; and it favored those contracts, named settlements, which, employing the equity devices of uses, trusts, and powers, were framed for the purpose of securing by express stipulation this same benefit of a separate estate for the wife.
The legislature came in time to reform the law in the same direction, and has enacted, both in England and the United States, those "married woman's statutes" which have materially modified the common law touching the rights of husbands over the estates of their wives. - In general, every person who may alienate his property may make a settlement of it. All persons therefore of full age, and masters of their estates, may settle them as they please. Yet a woman, even if she is of full age, cannot in contemplation of marriage, without the knowledge of her intended husband, make a settlement of her property real or personal; the disappointment of the future husband's expectations respecting the property of the wife is a fraud on the part of the latter, and invalidates the settlement. Nor, at common law, can a woman under coverture make a settlement without the concurrence of her husband, unless she is acting under a power or is disposing of property which she holds in her separate right. Great inconvenience and disadvantage having arisen from the state of the law in regard to the right of infants to make settlements, a statute was passed in England in 1858 which enabled male infants at the age of 20 and female infants at the age of 17, with the approbation of the court of chancery, to make valid settlements, or contracts for the settlement of all their property, real or personal, whether in possession or in reversion, remainder, or expectancy. - Settlements or agreements for settlements may be made before marriage or after it.
Equity will enforce ante-nuptial agreements, provided they are fair and valid, and do not contravene the general policy and principles of the law. A subsequent marriage is consideration enough to support an otherwise voluntary deed. Post-nuptial settlements may be made either voluntarily or in pursuance of articles entered into prior to the marriage. In the latter case, the marriage being of itself a valuable consideration, the settlement is valid both against creditors and purchasers. A voluntary settlement made after marriage, and not resting on any ante-nuptial agreement, is in general void as against creditors existing when the settlement was made; yet it may be good, if made for a consideration which bears a reasonable proportion to the amount tied up by the settlement. The concurrence of a wife in destroying an existing settlement, and her joining in barring her dower, have been held sufficient considerations to support settlements which would otherwise have been held voluntary and invalid. - In framing marriage settlements, it is expedient to vest the property in a trustee, though this is by no means indispensable. The control of the separate estate may be committed to the wife.
Regard must be had to the provisions of the statutes which fix the limits to the suspension of the power of alienation, and to the statutes respecting trusts and powers which are enacted as checks upon the disposition to tie up property in certain hands. - The necessity of making settlements is materially lessened by the very general enactment of the so-called married woman's statutes to which we have already referred. It is the chief object of the statutes to give the wife rights, independent of the husband, to take by inheritance, or by gift, grant, or bequest; any real or personal property; to hold it to her sole and separate use; to dispose of it as she pleases during her lifetime, and to demise it as she will at her death.