Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Scintilla Juris Definition:

Latin: a spark of legal right.

Related Terms: Trust, Remainder

Also scintillae juris.

The doctrine of scintilla juris prevailed upon lands given by trusts, leaving a residual legal right to the previous owner, called a seisin, or a scintilla juris, and which remained in the settlor of the trust in order to allow the transition to some future trust.

For example, if a is a conveyance were made to Brian and his heirs as trustees, in trust for Aaron and his heirs until a certain event, and afterwards in trust for Cherry and her heirs, there would exist a scintilla juris, a spark of a legal right to Brian for the purpose of enabling him, on the given event, to perfect the trust over to Cherry.

In his 1943 article, Harold Potts wrote:

"A scintilla is an incipient or just perceptible spark.

"In 1595, in a case on contingent remainders, Dyer invented this shadowy abstraction to explain the locus of the right of seisin as it was shifting or springing at the death of one person to the next remainderman.

scintilla juris"The scintilla juris was a hypothetical trace or emanation of legal right or title or seisin, a fiction invented by perverse astuteness to escape a difficulty which itself only had created.

"Finally, the ghost was laid in 1860 by Lord St. Leonard's Act, which stated that the rights of the remainderman were determined without any invocation of the scintilla juris."

In 1860, the scintilla juris doctrine was removed from the English law by statute, so that trusts shall take effect when and as they arise and that no scintilla juris was thereafter necessary to give effect to future trusts. Other common law jurisdictions followed. This, from the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act of Ontario, §34:

"Where by a deed, will or other instrument land is limited to uses, all uses thereunder, whether expressed or implied by law and whether immediate or future or contingent or executory or to be declared under any power therein contained, take effect when and as they arise by force of and by relation to the estate and seisin originally vested in the person seised to the uses, and the continued existence in the person or elsewhere of any seisin to uses or scintilla juris are not necessary for the support of, or to give effect to, future or contingent or executory uses, nor shall any such seisin to uses or scintilla juris be deemed to be suspended or to remain or to subsist in the person or elsewhere."

Mozley and Whiteley's 1962 Law Dictionary:

"Scintilla juris; a spark or shadow of right formerly said to subsist in a ... grantee in certain (trust) cases.

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