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Fee Tail

An estate in land subject to a restriction regarding inheritance.

A fee tail is an interest in real property that is ordinarily created with words such as "to A and the heirs of his body." It may be limited in various ways, such as to male or female heirs only, or to children produced by a particular spouse.

A fee tail is passed by inheritance from generation to generation to the heirs of the body of the initial owner. Since no one is an heir of the living, the children of the owner of a fee tail are merely heirs apparent. Such children, therefore, have no transferable interest during their lifetimes.

A fee tail can endure until the holder dies without surviving issue, but it cannot be passed on to collateral heirs. A reversion remains in the original owner whenever a fee tail is created. Thus, if a tenant in fee tail dies without heirs, the property reverts back to the original grantor who initially created the fee tail estate.

The power of the holder of a fee tail is limited, since the holder can use the land during the course of his or her lifetime but cannot prohibit its passing to his or her bodily heirs if any exist upon his or her death.

Many jurisdictions have abolished the fee tail estate since it restricts the ready alienation, or transfer, of property. Such states have transformed it into a fee simple through statute.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Ex proprio motu (ex mero motu) to File