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A fee tail is an estate that exists as long as the original fee tail tenant or his descendants are alive. This is a freehold estate, which means that the holder has seisin (possession.) An estate of inheritance which specifies the descendants or classes or heirs of the devisee who may succeed to the said estate.

At common law, a fee tail was an estate of inheritance which descended to the heirs of a donee's body, or to a class of those heirs, and through them to like heirs in a direct line. Nave v. Bailey, 329 Ill. 235, 240, 160 N.E. 605 (1928). The estate continued in a regular order and course of descent for as long as the heirs or class existed. Upon extinction of the specified issue, the estate terminated and reverted to the grantor. Nave, 329 Ill. at 240.

In medieval times, when land ownership was the key to acquiring and maintaining wealth, powerful families sought a vehicle to permanently keep the land in the family, which would allow the primogenitary heir to control it, but would also prevent him from alienating the land. Landowners could create such an estate by conveying ...

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