This case addressed a technical legal question: whether a deed of entail was properly drafted so as to shield the estate from an heir’s creditors. Andrew Ranaldson executed a strict entail providing that when he died, his estate at Blairhall would pass to his eldest son John Ranaldson and John’s lawful male heirs; the entail also named substitutes who would inherit if John’s line failed. John succeeded to the estate but died without lawful issue. As a result, the estate passed to his sister, Defender Ann Ranaldson Dickson. Following this transfer, controversy arose concerning certain debts that John contracted prior to his death, including sums due to Barbara Nicholson for board of John’s natural daughter; an annuity in favor of Elizabeth Hutcheson; a bond in favor of Elizabeth’s son John Ranaldson, upon his achieving the age of twenty-one; and a bond to James Tait. Pursuer John Syme became the trustee for these creditors and sought to collect a portion of the debts from Ann and her husband James Dickson. Syme argued that although the deed contained a “resolutive clause”—which extinguished the title of any heir who attempted to contract debts against the estate—that clause was ineffective against the “institute,” or person to whom the estate was first given (i.e., John). Offering a different reading of the deed, Ann answered that the clause was effective against John, and therefore she was not liable for any of his debts.
William Morison, The Decisions of the Court of Session (1811), pg. 15473, , pg. 35_9