SEISIN (from M. Eng. saysen, seysen, in the legal sense of to put in possession of, or to take possession of, hence, to grasp, to seize; the O. Fr. seisir, saisir, is from Low Lat. sacire, generally referred to the same source as Goth. satjan, O. Eng. settan, to put in place, set), the possession of such an estate in land as was anciently thought worthy to be held by a free man (Williams, On Seisin, p. 2). Seisin is of two kinds, in law and in deed. Seisin in law is where lands descend and the heir has not actually entered upon them; by entry he converts his seisin in law into seisin in deed. Seisin is now confined to possession of the freehold, though at one time it appears to have been used for simple possession without regard to the estate of the possessor. Its importance is considerably less than it was at one time, owing to the old form of conveyance by feoffment with livery of seisin having been superseded by a deed of grant (see Feoffment), and the old rule of descent from the person last seised having been abolished in favour of descent from the purchaser. At one time the right of the wife to dower and of the husband to an estate by curtesy depended upon the doctrine of seisin. The Dower Act (1833–1834), however, rendered the fact of the seisin of the husband of no importance, and the Married Women's Property Act 1882 practically abolished the old law of curtesy.
Primer seisin was a feudal burden at one time incident to the king's tenants in capite, whether by knight service or in socage. It was the right of the crown to receive of the heir, after the death of a tenant in capite, one year's profits of lands in possession and half a year's profits of lands in reversion. The right was abandoned by the act abolishing feudal tenures (12 Car. II. c. 24, 1660).
In Scots law the corresponding term is “sasine.” Like seisin in England, sasine has become of little legal importance owing to modern legislation. By an act of 1845 actual sasine on the lands was made unnecessary. By an act of 1858 the instrument of sasine was superseded by the recording of the conveyance with a warrant of registration thereon.
- Up to the middle of the 15th century “seisin” was applied to chattels equally with freeholds, the word “possessed” being rarely used. In course of time the words acquired their modern meaning. See F. W. Maitland, “Seisin of Chattels,” Law Quarterly Review, vol. I. p. 324 and “The Mystery of Seisin,” Law Q. R. ii. 481. Pollock and Maitland, Hist. Eng. Law, vol. ii. 29 seq.; Fry, L. J., in Cochrane v. Moore (1890), 25 Q.B.D. 57.