Saturday, October 13, 2007
Word of the Week
The right to use and to enjoy the profits of property that belongs to another. If somebody gives you usufruct over land, you can live on it, grow crops on it, and eat or sell those crops. But you cannot sell it.
Usufruct is a Roman legal concept; the word comes from Latin usus (use) plus fructus (fruit), thus conveying the concept of property you can use and enjoy the fruits of, but still isn't yours. From Roman law, usufruct entered the French Civil Code, and from France was transplanted to the Louisiana Civil Code, where it remains today, defined in Section 535.
In A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley tells Stella that the Napoleonic Code means that "what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband also, and vice versa." Sorry Stanley. Actually, Louisiana law gives the surviving spouse usufruct over the marital property -- but not ownership. Maybe usufruct was too much of a mouthful for poor Stanley.