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|Entails and Life Interests
Written by Caroline
(9/8/2009 12:25 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, An Inheritance Question, penned by BarbaraB
I read some things about entails and life interests once (I think I may have read it in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew - I can't remember) and I think the deal was that a lot of the time, large estates were entailed away from the female line because families wanted to be sure that the family name would continue - and, of course, that the wealth and property would remain in the family. I don't think it was a law that property always had to go to the eldest male heir, it was just a common practice, and people could legally place these kinds of restrictions on inheritances. Uncle Dashwood never married and never had children, but I guess he was content to leave Norland to his nephew Henry Dashwood. Of course, he did it only as a life interest (thanks, Uncle Dashwood), so Henry could live in the estate and collect the money it generated from its tenants or whatever, but he could not sell or split up the estate and it would all go to his son John (also as a life interest), in full, when Henry died. Sometimes, though, wealth and property was left to women - like Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Ferrars in this novel and Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice. Since there was disappointment at the reading of Uncle Dashwood's will, it seems like he must have come to possess the estate without any restrictions and could have left Norland to Henry without the stipulation of it being only a life interest entailed to the eldest male heir if he had chosen to. Then maybe Henry would have been free to bequeath the estate to his wife and children as he saw fit. Heck, I guess if Henry had inherited the estate without restriction, he could have split it up amongst all four of his children and his wife - then John and Fanny, Elinor, her mother, and her sisters would have been one big, happy(?) family at Norland. Shudder.
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