Washington Law Review


Harry M. Cross


As a state grows in age and the accumulations of private capital within its boundaries increase in size and number, problems of future interests in property law become of greater importance. Propertied individuals seek to extend control over their accumulations beyond their deaths, whether wisely or not is here unimportant. Washington is reaching this stage of maturity and its lawyers consequently will be more frequently confronted with the difficulties in creation of future interests. One of the major pitfalls facing the lawyer in this field is the rule in Shelley's Case which by its operation defeats the effort of a transferor to continue his dominance over the devolution of his property. There is no question that the rule did not first arise in the case from which its name is taken. Probably the best short statement of the rule was made by defendant's counsel in the case itself: "... it is a rule in law when the ancestor, by any gift or conveyance, takes an estate of freehold, and in the same gift or conveyance an estate is limited, either mediately or immediately, to his heirs in fee or in tail; that always in such cases 'the heirs' are words of limitation of the estate, and not words of purchase."

First Page