The Future of Property

This lesson is about limits on proprietary freedom: to what extent can a private owner control future uses of property? In answering that question, we will revisit the justifications of private property, and continue to explore the intersection between property rights and other values, such as equality for instance.

This lesson covers materials from both chapters 5 and 7. Because the law in this area can be quite complex, youll need to be familiar with some jargon. So that first substantive class in the lesson will be dedicated to introducing the terms and concepts the underpin contingent transfers of and future interests in property. Read the cases and accompanying notes and questions on pages 353-382 to acquaint yourself with the fee simple and the life estate.

Materials at pages 527-539, which cover “strings” attached to transfers of property, build on these concepts. Again, theres a lot of jargon to learn here, and Ill my best to sort it out for you during our second class together as part of this lesson.

Pages 539-572 deal with limitations on private power — the heart of this lesson. Read the materials carefully, please, and come to the third class prepared for discussion and debate. Well focus on the Leondard Foundation Trust case, but also discuss Re Charles Millar, Deceased, [1938] S.C.R. 1, the case at the heart of “The Stork Derby.” For movie buffs looking for more on this topic, check out Brewsters Millions, staring Richard Prior and John Candy. The plot goes like this: long-lost uncle leaves his nephew $30 million, with the promise to pay him $300 million if he can spend it all in a month but, heres the catch, without acquiring any assets.

The final class in this lesson will focus on the infamous rule against perpetuities, or what’s been called the R.A.P. trap. Read pages 591-604.  You could also check out the film ” Body Heat“. Believe it or not, the plot actually turns on the rule against perpetuities.

At the end of our class on the rule against perpetuities, we’ll consider the Perpetuities Act in force in the Northwest Territories. This provides a perfect segue into our analysis of Aboriginal perspectives on property. Does this arcane legislation make sense to the vast majority of people who live in Canada’s north? We’ll consider that question next.