A fee tail is a conveyance of an interest in real property. Fee tails derive from English Common Law and are intended to preserve the estate in the bloodline of the person receiving the property interest. Consequently, only the children of a fee tail holder will benefit from a fee tail. Furthermore, once the holder of a fee tail dies without children, then both the bloodline and the fee tail end and the property goes back to the original grantor.
How Is a Fee Tail Conveyed or Created?
In order for a fee tail to be created there needs to be an express reference to "heirs of his body" or substantially similar words. This is to indicate that the property will only transfer to the direct descendents of the person originally given the property. The majority of states, however, have eliminated the fee tail estate.
In states where the fee tail has been eliminated, courts have interpreted fee tails in two ways. Some states will change the fee tail into a fee simple. These states will give the original person receiving the property the entire interest in the property. Other states will change the fee tail into a life estate. After the life estate ends, the property will go to the heirs of the life estate holder in a fee simple.
Should I Convey My Property Interest in the Form of a Fee Tail?
Fee tails are only recognized in Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Unless you own property in one of those four states, a fee tail would not be appropriate conveyance of property. If, however, you like the idea of a fee tail and would prefer your property to proceed to the children of the grantee, then consult an estate planning attorney. They will be able to assist you in drafting a similar conveyance that will accomplish your goals.