Mortmain

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A French term meaning “dead hand” which is used in reference to inalienable land or tenements held by the “dead hand” of a church or corporate entity. Alienation of land to a corporation in mortmain, which would render it inalienable as corporations do not die, historically used to be called amortization. Such attempts at deadhand control of property for indefinite periods extending far beyond the death of decedent title holders ran counter to public policy, leading to the emergence of the Rule Against Perpetuities as a remedy to this disfavored practice.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]