Five Reforms for Perfect Future Interests
Posted: 19 Sep 2002
Future interests are essential to the Anglo-American law of property. They permit ownership to be shared among generations, hence giving our property transactions a degree of flexibility historically unavailable to the countries rooted in Roman law. Yet the current law of future interests still carries much of its late-medieval baggage: it revels in unhelpful complexity, elevates form over substance, and frustrates the very transactions it should facilitiate.
This Article proposes a medieval solution: simplification. It is one of history's ironies that as the English courts were laying the foundation for our complicated structure of future interests, an English philosopher was preaching the virtues of conceptual simplicity. His name was William of Ockham, his lasting contribution the principle "pluritas non est ponenda sine necessitas": plurality should not be posited without necessity. The principle is known as Ockham's Razor, its blade ready to cut away purposeless complexity.
The law of future interests needs Ockham's Razor. The system of future interests is built on unhelpful and unnecessary classifications and burdened with outmoded rules of substantive law. Part I of this Article proposes five fundamental reforms to future interest law. These eliminate the classificatory superstructure and the outdated substantive rules while retaining the temporal division of ownership that is at the heart of modern family property transactions. Part II codifies these reforms in a proposed Uniform Future Interests Act, with accompanying commentary. The Article concludes by urging the Uniform Act's promulgation by NCCUSL and its adoption by state legislatures.
Keywords: property, future interest, rule against perpetuities, law reform
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation