ACCUMULATION (from Lat. accumulare, to heap up), strictly a piling-up of anything; technically, in law, the continuous adding of the interest of a fund to the principal, for the benefit of some person or persons in the future. Previous to 1800, this accumulation of property was not forbidden by English law, provided the period during which it was to accumulate did not exceed that forbidden by the law against perpetuities, viz. the period of a life or lives in being, and twenty-one years afterwards. In 1800, however, the law was amended in consequence of the eccentric will of Peter Thellusson (1737–1797), an English merchant, who directed the income of his property, consisting of real estate of the annual value of about £5000 and personal estate amounting to over £600,000, to be accumulated during the lives of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, living at the time of his death, and the survivor of them. The property so accumulated, which, it is estimated, would have amounted to over £14,000,000, was to be divided among such descendants as might be alive on the death of the survivor of those lives during which the accumulation was to continue. The bequest was held valid (Thellusson v. Woodford, 1798, 4 Vesey, 237). In 1856 there was a protracted lawsuit as to who were the actual heirs. It was decided by the House of Lords (June 9, 1859) in favour of Lord Rendlesham and Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson. Owing, however, to the heavy expenses, the amount inherited was not much larger than that originally bequeathed.

To prevent such a disposition of property in the future, the Accumulations Act 1800 (known also as the “Thellusson Act”) was passed, by which it was enacted that no property should be accumulated for any longer term than either (1) the life of the settlor; or (2) the term of twenty-one years from his death; or (3) during the minority of any person living or en ventre sa mère at the time of the death of the grantor; or (4) during the minority of any person who, if of full age, would be entitled to the income directed to be accumulated. The act, however, did not extend to any provision for payment of the debts of the grantor or of any other person, nor to any provision for raising portions for the children of the settlor, or any person interested under the settlement, nor to any direction touching the produce of timber or wood upon any lands or tenements. The act was extended to heritable property in Scotland by the Entail Amendment Act 1848, but does not apply to property in Ireland. The act was further amended by the Accumulations Act 1892, which forbids accumulations for the purpose of the purchase of land for any longer period than during the minority of any person or persons who, if of full age, would be entitled to receive the income. (See also Trust and Perpetuity.)