Disseisin, a term used in the English law to express the turning a man out of possession of a freehold estate in lands, that is to say, an estate in fee or for life. It is not applied to dispossession of a term of years, nor is it strictly applicable to an incorporal estate, inasmuch as that species of estate does not admit of actual possession in a literal sense; yet constructively there may be disseisin of incorporal rights, as an office, rent, and the like. According to the old common law, disseisin always imported a wrongful putting of another out of possession. An entry by a stranger after the death of the owner of a freehold, and before the heir or devisee had taken possession, was called an abatement; an entry after the determination of a particular estate, before the person entitled to the reversion or remainder, was an intrusion; an alienation by a tenant for life for a longer term than he was entitled to convey was a discontinuance; and different remedies were necessary for the recovery of the possession while the old forms of real actions were in use.
As disseisin commenced by a wrongful act of the disseizor, the person disseized could repossess himself by an entry upon the lands; but if the disseizor died in possession, there could be no entry against his heir, but the rightful owner was then put to an action for the recovery of the possession. This rule, however, was subject to certain exceptions, as disability of the person entitled to make the entry; and finally by statute five years' possession by the disseizor before his death was necessary in order to take away the right of entry. It was required that the entry should be peaceable, for if force was used a summary process was given by statute to restore the possession to the person thus put out, although, as before supposed, his possession was wrongful, provided he or those from whom he claimed had held the premises three years. Possession, although not conclusive evidence of the right of property, was yet deemed of such importance that it could be the subject of an action without involving the question of the real ownership of the fee. The old forms of proceeding by writ of entry, assize of novel disseisin, and the like, were possessory actions. The title to the fee could be determined only by a writ of right or other analogous proceeding.
A limitation of time was prescribed for the bringing of possessory actions, which has varied at different periods; but now, by statutes 3 and 4 William IV., c. 27 (1833), no entry can be made nor action brought but within 20 years after the right of entry or action accrued; descent cast (as it was called when the disseizor died in possession) is not allowed to defeat such entry or action, and all the real actions formerly used are abolished, except actions for dower, quare impedit (which relates to certain incor-poral rights), and ejectment, which last is the mode by which all titles to corporal estates are now tried. In this country, these provisions have been long since generally adopted, and even greater changes made; and the term disseisin has been little used in American law, and merely as synonymous with dispossession.