Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rose on Medieval Estate Planning

Medieval Estate Planning: The Wills and Testamentary Trials of Sir John Fastolf  has just been posted by Jonathan Rose, Arizona State University College of Law.  Here's the abstract:
Medieval will-making has often been associated with efforts right before death. But estate planning activity at an earlier time was also possible and was pursued by the upper reaches of English society. Sir John Fastolf (1380-1459), a wealthy East Anglian knight, made substantial efforts to plan his estate. He made several wills and charters enfeoffing land to his use. But his efforts faced many obstacles and ultimately failed, resulting in a contest regarding the validity of his death-bed will.

This essay documents those estate planning activities. It does so by recounting a story of longstanding interest to medieval historians and other scholars. Using extensive primary sources, the essay, for the first time, explores completely and orderly all the relevant wills, charters, and other documents as well as the voluminous testimony in the will contest.

The full story shows that Fastolf’s estate planning efforts were ultimately frustrated by deathbed changes, other claims on the property, the need for royal approval, political factors, conflicts among executors, and papal intervention. Nor is it clear whether they ever could have been successful or whether medieval estate planning could ever be secure.


Shag from Brookline said...

How much of medieval estate planning involved tax issues? I may download Rose's article to find out.

Shag from Brookline said...

No, tax issues were not involved, not that I expected they would. The article brought back unhappy memories of 1L (1951-2) with Real Property and the historical development of the law on property, trusts, estates and wills, referencing terms that had little to do with my law practice of 50+ years. The Will Contest proceedings were, however, of great interest, with so many documents and so many witnesses, some obviously telling lies, as well as the fact that church (Roman Catholic) courts were involved. There was even an appeal to the Vatican which applied the doctrine of cy pres, which has been in the legal news in recent years.

Modernization had somewhat simplified real property law here in America but over the course of my years of practice new slicing and dicing of real estate came about, including condominiums, easement takings for pipelines, securitization of mortgages and changes in registry recording systems, etc, to perhaps reintroduce complications. Do law students today suffer from the historical aspects of real property law?