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Understanding Indentures

Updated on February 2, 2010

Indenture, in law, a type of deed conveying ownership of real property (land), executed by both a grantor and a grantee. The parties undertake reciprocal obligations, or grants, toward each other. There may be several grantors and grantees in the same transaction, and for this reason the original practice was to inscribe copies of the deed on a single sheet and then to separate them along a notched or indented line (hence the name). Thus the counterparts could be easily identified when they were fitted together.

In contrast, a document known as a deed poll is executed only by the grantor, who binds himself only to the grantee. The edge of the deed poll (unlike the indenture) was originally cut evenly, or "polled."

The modern indenture (no longer "indented") is legally effective only when delivered and accepted by both parries. The grantee's acceptance of a deed poll is effective to bind him to the terms of the deed.

An indenture of apprenticeship is an employment contract for the instruction of an employee in a trade or calling. A corporate indenture is a written instrument, such as a mortgage or trust deed, that serves as security for corporate bonds and states the rights of the bondholders. The term can also mean the trust agreement describing rights of debenture holders.

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