Doctrine of Estates Law and Legal Definition

Doctrine of Estates is an old English rule that a person cannot own land, but can merely own an estate in it, authorizing the person to hold it for some period of time. It originated during the Norman conquest of England in 1066 when the feudal system of landholding was introduced. In this system land was held from a lord for a period of time in return for certain services and other charges or ‘incidents of tenure’. The period of time for which land is held is an estate. The doctrine of estates is still important, but the number of estates which can exist at common law was reduced by the Law of Property Act 1925.