Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary
Cestui que, Cestuy que, is an Anglo-French phrase of medieval English invention, which appears in the legal phrases cestui que trust, cestui que use, or cestui que vie. It is commonly pronounced as “Setty-Kay” or “Sesty-Kay”. According to Roebuck, “Cestui que use” is pronounced “setticky yuce”. Cestui que use and cestui que trust are more or less interchangeable terms. Cestui que is a shortened version of “cestui a que use le feoffment fuit fait,” literally, “The person for whose use the feoffment was made.” In some medieval literature, the phrase is seen as cestui a que.
The “cestui que use” is the person for whose benefit the trust is created. The “cestui que trust” is the person entitled to the equitable, as opposed to the legal, estate. Thus, if land is granted to the use of A. in trust for B., B. is cestui que trust, and A. trustee, or use. The cestui que use and trust were rooted in medieval law, and became a legal method to avoid the feudal (medieval) incidents (payments) to an overlord, while leaving the land for the use of another, who owed nothing to the lord. The law of cestui que tended to defer jurisdiction to courts of equity as opposed to common law courts. The cestui que was often utilized by persons who might be absent from the kingdom for an extended time (as on a Crusade, or a business adventure), and who held tenancy to the land, and owed feudal incidents to a lord. The land could be left for the use of a third party, who did not owe the incidents to the lord.
This legal status was also invented to circumvent the Statute of Mortmain. That statute was intended to end the relatively common practice of leaving real property to the Church at the time of the owner’s death. Since the Church never died, the land never left the “dead hand” (“Mortmain” or Church). Before the Statute of Mortmain, large amounts of land were bequethed to the Church, which never relinquished it. This was in contradistinction to normal lands which could be inherited in a family line or revert to a lord or the Crown upon death of the tenant. Church land had been a source of contention between the Crown and the Church for centuries. Cestui que use allowed religious orders to inhabit land, while the title resided with a corporation of lawyers or other entities, who nominally had no relation to the Church. The term, principally owing to its cumbersome nature, has been virtually superseded in modern law by that of “beneficiary”, and general law of trusts.
It is the opinion of William Holdsworth quoting such scholars as Gilbert, Sanders, Blackstone, Spence and Digby, that cestui que in English law had a Roman origin. An analogy exists between cestuique uses and a usufructus (usufruct) or the bequest of a fideicommissum. These all tended to create a feoffement to one person for the use of another. Gilbert writes, (also seen in Blackstone): “that they answer more to the fideicommissum than the usufructus of the civil law.” These were transplanted into England from Roman Civil Law about the close of the reign of Edward III of England by means of foreign ecclesiastics who introduced them to evade the Statute of Mortmain. Others argue that the comparison between cestui que and Roman law is merely superficial. The transfer of land for the use of one person for certain purposes to be carried out either in the lifetime or after the death of the person conveying it has its basis in Germanic law. It was popularly held that land could be transferred for the use from one person to another in local custom. The formal English or Saxon law didn’t always recognize this custom. The practice was called Salman or Treuhand. “Sala” is German for “transfer”. It is related to the Old English “sellen”, “to sell”.
The earliest appearance of cestui que in the medieval period was the feoffee to uses, which like the Salman, held on account of another. This was called the cestui que use. It was because the feoffor could impose on him many various duties that landowners acquired through his instrumentality the power to do many things with their land. This was a to avoid the rigidity of medieval common law of land and its uses. Germanic law was familiar with the idea that a man who holds property on account of, or to the use of another is bound to fulfil his trust. Frankish formulas from the Merovingian period describe property given to a church “ad opus sancti illius.” Mercian books in the ninth century convey land “ad opus monachorum”. The Domesday Book refers to geld or money, sac and soc held in “ad opus regus”, or in “reginae” or “vicecomitis”. The laws of William I of England speak of the sheriff holding money “al os le rei” (“for the use of the king”).
Others state that the cestui que use trust was the product of Roman Law. In England it was the invention of ecclesiastics who wanted to escape the Statute of Mortmain. The goal was to obtain a conveyance of an estate to a friendly person or corporation, with the intent that the use of the estate would reside with the original owner.
Pollock and Maitland describe cestui que use as the first step toward the law of agency. They note that the word “use” as it was employed in medieval English law was not from the Latin “usus”, but rather from the Latin word “opus”, meaning “work”. From this came the Old French words “os” or “oes”. Although with time the Latin document for conveying land to the use of John would be written “ad opus Johannis” which was interchangeable with “ad usum Johannis”, or the fuller formula, “ad opus et ad usum”, the earliest history suggests the term “use” evolved from “ad opus”.
Many reasons have been given for the invention of the cestui que use as a legal device. During the Crusades, and other wars on the Continent, landowners might be gone for long periods of time. Others might be absent because of business adventures or religious pilgrimages. There was no assurance they would ever return home. The cestui que use allowed them to leave a trusted friend or relative with the sort of powers, discretions and they hoped, the duties. Today, this power would be called the “power of attorney”. Religious orders such as Franciscans, Cistercians, Benedictines and other[mendicant orders took vows of poverty, yet retained the use of donated property. Cestui que use allowed them the benefits of land without legal ownership.
Besides the obvious limitations placed on cestui que by the Statute of Mortmain, Statute of Use and the Statute of Wills, its legality was shaped indirectly by provisions within the Magna Carta and Quia Emptores.
Derek Roebuck has given the following typical fact patterns which were often found in medieval cestui que use:
Example 1: Albert is the owner of a landholding called Blackacre. He conveys this to Richard with the command that Richard hold the land with the duty not for Richard’s benefit, but for a different purpose. This could be to do a job, such as collect rents and profits for the purpose of passing them to a third person, Lucy. This was nothing more than a clever legal device with Richard playing either an active or passive role.
Example 2: If Jane (women could engage in cestui que use), granted Blackacre to Charles to the use of David, then David became the beneficial owner and Jane could not vary or detract from that ownership.
Example 3: If Mary wanted to grant Blackacre away from her direct heir James, to her younger son Jasper, then she might well do so by a grant of Richard to the use of Jasper in tail, remainder to James in fee simple. Only Richard had a legal estate, the interests of Jasper and James being equitable analogues of a legal fee tail and fee simple in remainder.
Example 4: If Mary wanted to make a will of the equitable ownership of Blackacre, she would be able to do so by a grant to Richard to the use of herself, Mary. The ownership of Blackacre did not pass on Mary’s death to her heir but went to wherever she might will it. By this method, Mary could keep her wishes secret until her death when her will would be read, and would prevail. This was a way to defeat primogeniture inheritance.
Example 5: Uses were so common by the middle of the fifteenth century that they were presumed to be in existence even if no intention could be proved. If Martin granted Blackacre to Martha, and she could show no consideration (that is, that she paid for it), then Martha would be considered in equity to be the feoffee to unspecified uses to be announced at Martin’s discretion. If Martin sold Blackacre to Martha, but did not go through the formal routines of feoffment to complete the conveyance, Martha could not become the legal owner. But in equity, Martin held the land to the cestui que use of Martha. It would have been unconscionable for him to do otherwise having taken her money for the sale of Blackacre.
Example 6: Albert might convey Blackacre to Richard for the use of Jane. In this case, Richard was called the “feoffee of uses”. Jane was the “cestui que use”. This was short for “cestui a qui use le feoffment fuit fait”, i.e. “The person to whose use the feoffment was made.” This device separated legal from beneficial ownership.
From the Doctor and Student (1518) “It will be somewhat long and peradventure somewhat tedious to show all the causes particularly.” By the fifteenth century, cestui que use was a vehicle to defraud creditors. The main use was to leave land, or parts of land to members of the family other than the primary heir. This was a way to avoid primogeniture inheritance. While the use was intact, the occupant of the land could take advantage of the cestui que use to avoid the feudal payments and duties (incidents). Incidents such as wardship, marriage penalties and other gifts, taxes, fines, fees, and knight service were onerous. Common law did not recognize cestui que uses as such, and there was difficulty fitting these cases into the existing writs and case law. The incidents could not be enforced against a person who was on a Crusade, or other war, or business adventure. They were not present in the kingdom to be enforced to perform. Since the feudal oath was to the person, and not the land, there could be no lien against the land. A hallmark of medieval feudalism was the person to person oath of allegiance. The feudal incidents could not be enforced upon the beneficiaries of the cestui que use, since these were not the owners of the land. The users had not sworn an oath to the lord. Therefore, they owed the lord nothing. The cestui que use had no estate. They had no seisin, nor a trespass, and therefore, ejectment could not be effected. These required possession. Assumpsit was of no avail. In 1402, the Commons had petitioned the king for a remedy against dishonest feoffees to uses, apparently with no result. Cestui que use became a new kind of property and property use.
Concerted efforts were made under Henry VII of England to reform cestui que. A change in the laws made feoffees the absolute owners of the property of which they had been enfeoffed, and they became subject to all the liabilities of ownership. They were the only ones who could take proceedings against those who interferred with their ownership. If a trespass had been committed with the license of the cestui que use they could take proceedings against him, for he was at law only a tenant at sufferance. Similarly, feoffees were the only ones who could take the proceedings against tenants of the land to compel them to perform their obligations.
If a debt was brought for rent by a cestui que use, and the defendant pleaded “nihil habuit tempore dimissions”, the plaintiff would have lost his action if he had not made a special replication setting out the facts.
The purpose of these changes was to make cestui que in general, and cestui que use trusts more cumbersome and economically unattractive.
Henry VIII sought to end all cestui que uses and regain the incidents (fees and payments) that had been deprived him. Thomas Cromwell and Audley who succeeded Thomas More vigorously crushed cestui que uses in the courts, persuading judges to declare them illegal or void. By 1538-39, over 800 religious landholdings had been returned to the Crown. Many of these were subsequently sold, converted to private dwellings, given to loyal supporters of the English Reformation, dismantled for building materials, or abandoned and allowed degenerate into ruins. Claims of religious corruption were frequently used to justify reclamation by the Crown. Since many of these religious orders provided charity, much of the local medical and social services were left in disarray.
The Statute of Uses was enacted in 1535 and was intended to end the abuses which had incurred in cestui que use. It declared that any holder of a cestui que use became the holder of the legal title of the ownership in fee simple. This voided the advantages of a cestui que use. The feoffee to uses was bypassed. The cestui que use had seisin. Henry VIII of England got his incidences back. The landowner lost the ability to will the land to heirs other than those in direct lineage. There could be no bypassing of heirs with a cestui que. This condition was modified in the Statute of Wills (1540). One of the effects of the Statute of Uses in executing the use, was to make a mere sale of land without feoffment (the formal public transfer) effective to pass the legal estate. The buyer became the owner by operation of the statute. It necessitated a public announcement of the intended sale to determine if the land had been surreptitiously sold to someone else. The Statute of Uses required a public registry of sale of land, later called the Statute of Enrollments.
Lawyers quickly determined that adding the words to a conveyance “land to Leonard and his heirs, to the use of John and his heirs, to the use of Kenneth and his heirs.” For a time, this device defeated the intent of the Statute of Uses.
Lord Hardwicke wrote that the Statute had no real effect other than to add, at most three words, to a conveyance. He was referring to the doctrine that had become settled before his time: that the old use might still be effected despite the Statute, by a “use on a use”. The Statute of Uses had been considered a great failure. It did not wipe out double ownership, legal and equitable, which has survived into the modern system of trusts. The preamble of the Statute went far in enumerating the abuses the system of uses had brought into play. The Statute did not, as had previously been suggested, try to remedy these abuses by declaring any uses void. It merely declared that the possession should be transferred to the use and that the cestui que use should have the possession after such manner and form as he had before the use.
In Re Chudleigh’s Case was the first application of the Statute of Uses, and occurred fifty years after its enactment. This case was argued several times in front of several courts in England. It has been described as a judicial scrutiny of “use on a use”. Francis Bacon argued for the defense. The case is replete with desultory and curious discussion which, in the opinion of Lord Hardwicke, is difficult to understand. The disposition and policy of the judges was to check contingent uses, which they deemed to be productive of mischiefs and tending to perpetuities. They regarded the Statute of Uses as intending to extirpate uses, which were often found to be subtle and fraudulent contrivances. Their evident object was to restore the simplicity and integrity of the common law.
The great controversy in Chudleigh’s case was whether the Statute of Uses had reduced the feoffee to uses to a mere conduit pipe through which possession passed to the cestui que use, or whether he still retained some of the old powers he had before the Statute of Uses. What the majority judges sought in the case was just what the projectors of the present property reform in England were after, the free alienability of land. Chudleigh’s Case became known as the Case of Perpetuities. The case turned on the doctrine of scintilla juris which Bacon called metaphysics of the worst kind. Scintilla juris (Latin: a spark of right), is a legal fiction allowing feoffees to uses to support contingent uses when they come into existence, thereby to enable the Statute of Uses to execute them. Chudleigh’s Case represented the turning point of the old medieval common law of cestui que uses, and the trend toward modernity. Bacon suggested that Justice Coke had “ripped uses from their cradle.”
In the 1815 case of Town of Pawlet v. Clark, the United States Supreme Court found that a Royal grant of land to the Church of England in the colony of New Hampshire was not completed. The grant had been made prior to the American Revolutionary War, and the State of Vermont, as successor to the English Crown, could claim the land and convey it to the town of Pawlet for schools. The cestui que nature of the trust which held the land was found to be void. The Episcopal Church in the town had no right or title to the land.
In the 1815 case of Terrett v. Taylor, the United States Supreme Court found that the State of Virginia could not expropriate property of the formerly established Episcopal Church or abolish its incorporation. At issue was a land grant which was given in deed of bargain and sale on September 18, 1770, by the direction of the then vestry of the church. The land had been conveyed to Townsend Dade and James Wren, both of the county and 44 other churchwardens, and to their successors in office in a form of cestui que for the use and benefit of the said church in the said parish.
The 1823 case of Society for the Propagation of the Gospel v. Town of New Haven looked at the issue of lands granted to an English corporate body, the “Society” which had a religious purpose. The land had been granted by George III of England in New Hampshire in 1761. It was held in corporation by a form of cestui que. On October 30, 1794, the State of Vermont passed a statute whereby the land of the Society would be appropriated by the state. The Supreme Court was divided in its opinion. It ruled that the property of English corporations at the time of the Revolution were protected by the Treaty of Peace, 1783. See Treaty of Paris (1783), Treaty of Versailles (1783) There could be no confiscations of such corporate holdings or lands because of the treaty.
In the 1829 case of Beatty v. Kurtz, The United States Supreme Court decided the issue of title in an unincorporated Lutheran Church land. The land had been used as a cemetery. The fact that the land was held by a non-corporation was deficient at law. Nevertheless, equity permitted settlement of the title in favour of the church organization out of religious sensitivity and sensibility. There should be sentiments for the kindred of the deceased.
A group of German separatists settled land in Ohio. The lands were held in community, and there was a renunciation of individual property. All crops and goods were donated to the community. Later the community formally incorporated, using the terms of the previous unincorporated association. The nature of the holding was in the form of a traditional cestui que use. The heirs of a deceased member of the Society of Separatists sued, seeking a portion of the lands held in community. In Goesele v. Bimeler, 1852, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the descendant heirs of the deceased member could not recover.
In a few American jurisdictions, the grantee from one whose land is adversely held is still precluded from maintaining an action in his own name to oust the adverse possessor.
A conveyance of land held adversely to the grantor is champertous and void. The title to the land remains in the grantor and the grantee cannot maintain an action for breach of the covenant in the conveyance. The fact that the transaction was fair and bona fide does not change the rule. It has been said that the common law doctrine is obsolete, not being suitable to conditions and circumstances of the people of this country.
Possession by a cestui que trust is not adverse to his trustee, and such possession will not void the latter to be champertous.
In the United States the Rule Against Perpetuities, where it is in effect, applies to both legal and equitable interests, created in trust. The Rule Against Perpetuities varies from state to state. The common law rule may be stated, “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the date of the creation of the interest.” Vesting indicates a right to an interest in the trust. The rule is directed entirely against remoteness in vesting. An identification of the person whose interest is defined by the trust, must either vest or fail in s specified time. Any interest which may remain contingent beyond the period of the rule is invalid. A beneficiary must be an identifiable person born within the time span of the trust, and vest in it. All interests in a charitable trust, are subject to the rule with a few exceptions. A charitable trust which gives a gift from the first charity to a second charity on a condition precedent is not void by reason of the fact that the condition may not occur without the period of the Rule. (See Example 2 below.) Property transferred from a non-charity and then leftover to a second charity on a remote contingency is void. (See Example 3 below.)
Example 1: Alex leaves property in trust to Bill to hold for the benefit of Alex’s children during their lives and on the death of the last survivor of Alex’s children, to distribute the principle to Alex’s grandchildren then living. At Alex’s death, he has three children living, C1, C2 and C3. It is certain that the remainder to the grandchildren will vest at the death of one of the three whose life will span both the time of the creation of the interest (Alex’s death) and the vesting interest of the interest (his own death). It is unnecessary to determine whether it will be C1, C2 or C3.
Example 2: Alphonse leaves property to Brandon in a trust to pay the income to St. John’s Church, located in Anytown, so long as it conducts its regular services in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer, 1789 Version. If at any time it should discontinue this practice, then the trust income reverts to St. Matthew’s Church. This is a valid contingency.
Example 3: Beth leaves property in trust to hold for Mary’s children for life and on the death of Mary’s last surviving child, the property reverts to Mary’s living female grandchildren. If no female grandchild is living, then the property reverts to the Cathedral School for Girls. Mary is living at the time of Beth’s death. The gift to the Cathedral School is void.
Example 4: Albert leaves property to Thomas in trust to pay the income to St. Mark’s Church so long as it conducts its regular services in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer, 1789 Version. If at any time in the future, it should discontinue to so conduct its services in such a manner, the income passes to Robert, or Robert’s heirs then living. The gift over is void because it may remain contingent for a period longer than the Rule Against Perpetuities. It makes no difference that it is preceded by a gift to charity.
Example 5: Martin leaves property to Joseph in trust to hold for the benefit of St. Vincent’s Church if it should adopt a new liturgy proposed by the religious convention held in 1970. The gift is void. The contingency may not occur within the period of the Rule. There is no exception for a gift to charity under such circumstances.
The Wait and See Rule was instituted to eliminate or mitigate the harsh effect of the common law Rule Against Perpetuities. Under this doctrine, the court decides the validity of future estates only at the time the prior estate terminates and then tests whether the interest violates the rule by the events which have actually happened rather than the possibilities existing at the time the interest was created.
Cy pres doctrine was also instituted to mitigate the harshness of the common law Rule Against Perpetuities. Cy pres means “as near as possible” or “as close as possible”. Cy Pres allows the court to reform the interest within the limits of the Rule to approximate most closely the intention of the creator of the interest. Both Wait and See and Cy Pres approaches have been adopted by the American Law Institute as to the traditional Rule Against Perpetuities.
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This glossary post was last updated: 1st May, 2020 | 1 Views.