DEFINITION of 'Abeyance'

A situation in which the rightful owner of a property, office or title has not yet been decided. Abeyance results when the current owner or holder does not declare a single current beneficiary. Instead, the new owner is determined through the outcome of a particular event at some time in the future. Thus, the ownership of the property, office, or title is left unfilled. Abeyance is derived from the Old French word "abeance." which means a longing or gaping, with future expectation.


Many estates are placed in trusts with stipulations that must be fulfilled before ownership can be taken. For example, if a trust fund is to be given to a child once he or she finishes college, the funds are said to be in abeyance until the goal is reached.

Abeyance also exists when there is no one who can easily declare future ownership. For example, a trust could be set up by a parent who has no grandchildren, but hopes to have grandchildren one day, and wishes to leave funds to them at some future date. Because these grandchildren do not yet exist, the proceeds would be held in abeyance until these children are born.

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