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Mortmain Acts

Statutes designed to prevent lands from being perpetually possessed or controlled by religious corporations.

The first mortmain act in England was enacted during the reign of King Edward I. A later statute passed during the reign of King George II was the model for subsequent mort-main acts in that it prevented the transfer of lands to charities unless the gift complied with certain requirements. Mortmain acts have been abolished by statute.

In the law governing wills, statutes based upon the original mortmain acts have been passed in some states to restrict the power of a testator to make gifts to charities. These modern statutes, also called mortmain acts, protect only the immediate family of a decedent from disinheritance by death-bed gifts to charities when the will is executed within the statutory period.

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