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Massachusetts Agencies

Statute of Uses

Statute of Uses

It is 1535 in England, and the King is very upset. He has found that his treasury has very little cash in it because some smart lawyers have been able to avoid the payment by their clients of the required feudal revenues by devising a scheme under which those payments would be substantially reduced. Under the taxing laws at the time, revenues were collected and taxes were imposed based upon the wealth of the "lord" whose landholdings were being assessed. So, the lawyers would tell their monarchical clients to convey their properties to their poor serfs "to the use" of themselves. This would vest title in the impoverished workers (whose landholding were negligible), thus requiring the king to tax them (at the lower rate, of course) and yet would allow the lord to retain control over the property (and be able to insist on an immediate reconveyance, if demanded). Oh, the poor king!

So, the monarch made an appointment with Parliament. The Statute of Uses was enacted that year to prevent this situation. The Statute provides, in effect, that if a conveyance was made "to the use of" another, the use would be "executed" and the "usee" would end up with the full title. Some ingenious barristers wondered what would happen if a use was layered upon a use. They tried it and the courts ruled that the second use was not executed by the Statute. These solicitors accomplished what the Statute was enacted to prevent . . . and they probably earned good fees to prove it!

The Statute of Uses was adopted as the common law of Massachusetts.