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HMRC internal manual

Trusts, Settlements and Estates Manual

Legal background to trusts & estates: the law in England & Wales - realty (real property)

The word ‘real’ means property that could be the subject of a ‘real’ action in the courts. It does not mean the opposite of imaginary. It is derived from the fact that a ‘real’ action was the only way a plaintiff could recover a ‘thing’ (a ‘res’). This kind of action applied only to certain rights in land. The best known of these is normally called freehold property. It is more correctly described as fee simple.

Real property is transferred by conveyance. Where it is settled into trust, this must be done by way of a written deed - S53 Law of Property Act 1925. Otherwise the transfer is invalid, and the property remains with the settlor. This Act does not apply in Scotland.