Legal Dictionary

cestui que

Legal Definition of cestui que

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Definition of cestui que

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Cestui que (also cestuy que) (English pronunciation: /ˈsɛstwi ˈkeɪ/) is a shortened version of cestui a que use le feoffment fuit fait, literally, "The person for whose use the feoffment was made." It is a Law French phrase of medieval English invention, which appears in the legal phrases cestui que trust, cestui que use, or cestui que vie. In contemporary English the phrase is also commonly pronounced "setty-kay" (/ˈsɛtikeɪ/) or "sesty-kay" (/ˈsɛstikeɪ/). According to Roebuck, Cestui que use is pronounced "setticky yuce" (/ˌsɛtɨkiˈjuːs/).[1] Cestui que use and cestui que trust are more or less interchangeable terms. In some medieval materials, the phrase is seen as cestui a que.

The cestui que use is the person for whose benefit the trust is created. The cestui que trust is the person entitled to an equitable, as opposed to a legal, estate. Thus, if land is granted to the use of A in trust for B, B is cestui que trust, and A trustee, or use. The term, principally owing to its cumbersome nature, has been virtually superseded in modern law by that of "beneficiary", and general law of trusts.

The cestui que use and trust were rooted in medieval law, and became a legal method to avoid the feudal (medieval) incidents (payments) to an overlord, while leaving the land for the use of another, who owed nothing to the lord. The law of cestui que tended to defer jurisdiction to courts of equity as opposed to common law courts. The cestui que was often utilized by persons who might be absent from the kingdom for an extended time (as on a Crusade, or a business adventure), and who held tenancy to the land, and owed feudal incidents to a lord. The land could be left for the use of a third party, who did not owe the incidents to the lord.

This legal status was also invented to circumvent the Statute of Mortmain. That statute was intended to end the relatively common practice of leaving real property to the Church at the time of the owner's death. Since the Church never died, the land never left the "dead hand" ("Mortmain" or Church). An alternative explanation of "mortmain" was that an owner from generations earlier was still dictating land use years after death, by leaving it to the Church. Hence the term "dead hand." Before the Statute of Mortmain, large amounts of land were bequethed to the Church, which never relinquished it. This was in contradistinction to normal lands which could be inherited in a family line or revert to a lord or the Crown upon death of the tenant. Church land had been a source of contention between the Crown and the Church for centuries. Cestui que use allowed religious orders to inhabit land, while the title resided with a corporation of lawyers or other entities, who nominally had no relation to the Church.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     warrant
2.     tampering
3.     emtio
4.     amnesty law
5.     magistrates court
6.     lex fori
7.     landed property
8.     lex situs
9.     lex causae
10.     ownership