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The Boring Truth About The Cestui Que Vie Act 1666

October 21, 2022

A Venerable Puzzle

WhatDoTheyKnow.com is one of my favorite sites. It’s an archive of requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and it’s fascinating to see what people are looking for. Some of the requests are downright bizarre. Recently, I noticed several that dealt with an obscure seventeenth-century statute known as the Cestui Que Vie Act 1666. The people making these requests seemed to believe that Parliament used it to declare every person over the age of seven in the United Kingdom dead and lost at sea, and they wanted guidance on how to prove that they are actually alive!

Needless to say, this interpretation of the Cestui Que Vie Act is balderdash. While it is a presumption of death statute, it’s nowhere near as sweeping as conspiracy theorists imagine. According to the Act’s preamble, there had been situations where tenants for life went abroad and effectively disappeared, causing headaches for the landlord and any reversioners.[1] Unless they could prove that the tenant was…

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