When it comes to old feudal rules regarding common-law easements, Willard vs the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pacifica (1972) adopted the new California rule on an easement engross.
Here’s the facts of the Willard case. The plaintiffs are the Willards who sued to quiet title on a deed where the said easement wasn’t recorded. The defendant is the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pacifica, who argued the said easement was conveyed prior to the present owners.
Here’s the issue in the Willard case. If you follow the bundle of sticks logic of a fee simple title, is it true that a person when deeding real property to another person can retain an interest for a third party? This is the issue before the courts in this case.
Here’s the rule of this case. Yes, when a seller sells his property, he may retain an interest for a third party. This court laid down this new property rule in this case.
Interestingly, this is a California property case. It is common knowledge that property law, or in this case an old feudal shackle, goes to California to be changed by the courts. And that is exactly what the Cali courts did in this case.
In the past, the common-law was the rule on the easement engross. Anyways, you got to be careful with common-law because it says you can vest an interest in a third party. Now, the courts just skip past the old feudal shackle to the modern rule on easement engrosses, which California property law established.
Additionally, something should be said about oral licenses. If there is estoppel (detrimental reliance, unjust enrichment, partial performance, specific performance, etc), the oral license can be treated by the courts as an easement. So be careful about those easement engrosses and oral licences when going to court.
And I can’t forget, something should be said about the fee simple determinable and easement engrosses. When it comes to a fee simple determinable, an element in the defeasible estate category, there are legal languages differences distinguishing it from an easement engross. Keep these legal language differences in mind because an easement engross never ends.
Last but not least, it should be said the court doesn’t like all feudal property law that originates at the time of Henry the 8th. The court has the rule against perpetuities (RAP) to deal with such real property interests that can’t be allowed to go on forever. The court just gets rid of these forever interests in California courts.
Finally, here’s something to ponder about real property, easements, and churches: What would happen if religion was banned, in your state or country, forever? All that church real property would go to the state. In fact, this is the case in Russia where religious property is appropriated by the state, if that religion is deemed “extremist.” Perhaps, too, the state won’t grant that “extremist” a.k.a corporation a.k.a registered religious community a tax exemption status too. Just thoughts because the church has an incredible amount of real property and easements around the world.