Shifting Descents Rule Law and Legal Definition

Shifting descents rule is the rule of the English common law that a descent of land, once vested, is liable to be defeated by the later birth of an heir, even a remote heir who, however, is in a nearer degree of kinship than the heir in whom the descent first vested.

The doctrine of shifting descents does not prevail under U.S. laws, any more than the other English rule that kinsmen of the whole blood, only, can inherit. [Bates v. Brown, 72 U.S. 710, 719 (U.S. 1867)].