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Re: Entail and Collins

January 19, 2017 09:35PM
You are write that Collins and the entail is a subject that is much discussed. Based on the countless posts I've read about the subject, here is my arguably inaccurate opinion.

-- For the first, what happens if Mr. Collins dies without children?--I think that would depend on the terms of the original entail. There may have been some specific provision made within it for this scenario, or it may be that there's another male relation somewhere who would fall heir next. We're not told exactly why Collins inherits now, only that again, that was the terms of the entail. In other words, if Mr. Collins is inheriting only because he's the closest male relative, then it makes sense that after him it would fall to next male, if there is one. If, however, Grandfather Bennet specifically wanted the Collins branch of the family to inherit next, then he may well have named another family branch after them. I think a fanfiction write could make up anything they wanted here.

-- For the next, what happens if there is no male to inherit at all? The usual thing under the law was that if there was no male to inherit, then an estate/fortune would be divided equally among the daughters. Barring any provision in the entail that specified differently, this is my best guess at what would happen. Once it was determined that there was no heir under the stated terms of the entail, it would be voided, and the estate would revert to "fee simple" as it was called, meaning that it would then be handled the same way as an unentailed state, and be divided according to normal inheritance laws.

-- For the third question--can the entail be broken? It's my understanding that there are two possible answers to this question.

1) No, it can't be broken, even if Mr. Collins himself agreed. The reason for this is that Collins was considered the "heir presumptive," not the "heir apparent," because if Mr. Bennet were to have a son before he died, then Collins would be the heir no longer. English law was extremely reluctant to give up the possibility of a son, and as long as Mr. Bennet was alive, said son's inheritance rights had to be guarded. Mr. Collins and Mr. Bennet could not work together to deprive Bennet Jr. of his inheritance.

2) Yes, it can be broken, provided that it's only a simple entail. If it's part of a larger legal package called a strict settlement, then no. I haven't read much about strict settlements, so I can't really explain what they involve, but they seem to have come out to the same thing as an entail, except that they can't be broken. Simple entails could be broken through a strange and bewildering process called common recovery. You can read about it here. It was an odd sort of play, carried out in court (with the court's full knowledge and participation), a legal fiction that took advantage of a loophole in the law that allowed the estate to be recovered, entail-free. It was supposedly originally invented because the kings of yore who seized land from their political enemies disliked having to give it back when the current holder died and the entail kicked in. Over the next few hundred years it became and extremely common and widespread practice.

I'm inclined to think that Longbourn was under a strict settlement, otherwise it would have been very little trouble for Mr. Bennet to break the entail. As lazy as he is, we know he had planned to break it with the cooperation of his son, had he had one, and this would not be much harder. Some scholars apparently think this displays Jane Austen's lack of legal knowledge, but I think it's more likely that "entail" was the common term everyone used to refer to such arrangements, regardless of what it might technically be considered (and entails were a part of strict settlements, so there was an entail).

I hope that this helps, rather than confuses you. Feel free to follow up with any questions! It'll only be a matter of time before all our rabid historians come out of the woodwork, and you'll learn more about 19th century inheritance law than you ever imagined. smiling smiley

Entail and Collins

LinaJanuary 19, 2017 11:15AM

Re: Entail and Collins

Suzanne OJanuary 19, 2017 09:35PM

Thank you

LinaJanuary 23, 2017 01:30PM

Re: Thank you

Suzanne OJanuary 23, 2017 11:07PM

Re: Thank you

Harvey S.January 23, 2017 09:39PM

Re: Entail and Collins

Amy I.January 19, 2017 08:38PM

Re: Entail and Collins

LinaJanuary 23, 2017 01:35PM


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