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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by John V. Orth, 2006

Entails were legal arrangements by which ownership of land was confined within a single family, passing at death from generation to generation. Known in legal jargon as a "fee tail," an entailed estate was limited to a person and his biological heirs. Developed in medieval England, entails were well known in colonial North Carolina. The state's first constitution directed the General Assembly to legislate against entails, and a law was passed in 1784 that has remained in force.


John V. Orth, "Does the Fee Tail Exist in North Carolina?" Wake Forest Law Review 23 (1988).

Additional Resources:

Acts of the North Carolina General Assembly, 1784, DocSouth, UNC Libraries:



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