Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Statute of Uses Definition:

A 1535 English law that prevented, for a time, the legal structure of a use.

A 1535 statute enacted during the reign of Henry the 8th, and coming into force in 1536, which held that use notwithstanding, the law would look to the cestui que use as the legal owner of land, and the consequential obligations that flowed from land-ownership, especially as regards feudal obligations.

Uses made it difficult to discover who the actual owner of a certain piece of land was, especially if they were created upon the death of a land-owner.

Statute of UsesThe Statute of Uses, formally named An Act Concerning Uses and Wills (27 Henry 8, Chapter 10), refers to, in the preamble, the creativity of medieval lawyers, using colourful language:

"Whereas by the common laws of this Realm, lands ... be not devisable ... nor ought to be transferred from one to another but by solemn ... writing made bona fide, yet nevertheless divers and sundry imaginations, subtle inventions and practices have been used whereby hereditaments of this Realm have been conveyed from one to another .. craftily made to secret uses.. sometimes by signs and tokens...."

In his book entitled Equity, by F. W. Maitland (Cambridge: University Press, 1949), at page 34, the author writes:

"A long preamble states the evil effects of the system... As a matter of historical fact, this is not true. The Statute of Uses was very unpopular. It was seen at once that it would deprive men of ... testamentary power... The king was the one person who had all to gain and nothing to lose by the abolition of uses."

After several centuries of legal battles and hundreds of cases which tried to circumvent the Statute, and from which the modern law of trusts was born, the Statute of Uses was repealed in 1925.

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