November 02, 2010
Sherlock Holmes on gratuitous transfers
Problems involving gratuitous transfers are found in both property and contract law. A fair chunk of the law of promissory estoppel, I've always thought, has its roots in the failure of property law (and the law of estates and trust) to deal adequately with situations where a clearly intended gift fails on technical ground.
I'm also a fan of the late Sherlock Holmes, just rereading (for about the fifth time) the Hound of the Baskervilles. So I obviously enjoyed a new paper by my Texas Wesleyan colleague Stephen Alton, The Game is Afoot!: The Significance of Gratuitous Transfers in the Sherlock Holmes Canon, The paper is written in cooperation with one Dr. John H. Watson, of 221B Baker Street. Here's the abstract:
This article presents a recently discovered and previously unpublished manuscript written by John H. Watson, M.D., and annotated by Professor Stephen Alton. Dr. Watson’s manuscript records an extended conversation that took place between the good doctor and his great friend, the renowned consulting detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes, regarding issues of gratuitous transfers of property – issues involving inheritances, wills, and trusts – that have arisen in some of the great cases solved by Mr. Holmes. This felicitous discovery confirms something that Professor Alton has long known: these gratuitous transfer issues permeate many of these adventures. Often, the action in the case occurs because of the desire of the wrong-doer to come into an inheritance, a bequest, or the present possession of an estate in land more quickly – perhaps by dispatching the intervening heir, beneficiary, or life tenant. Professor Alton has annotated this manuscript, providing extensive analysis of these issues and citations to relevant, contemporary authority in his footnotes.
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