A fee simple is an interest in property, often land, that has two unique characteristics:
- The property may be possessed infinitely
- May be inherited by one’s heirs.
A property interest is not a fee simple if either one of these qualities is not present.
There are two types of fee simple property interests:
- Fee simple defeasible
- Fee simple absolute
A "fee simple defeasible" is a fee simple that could end with the violation of a condition. Fee simple defeasible can be confusing, because it is easy to assume that if the interest could end, then one of the two characteristics of a fee simple may not be met. Thus, it is important to remember that if a condition will never be violated, the property will be owned indefinitely and a future interest will never vest.
A "fee simple absolute" is what one typically thinks of when someone els "owns" something. Typically, this is an interest in property a person will receive when they either buy land or receive land as a gift. The interest is absolute because the interest will not end on the occurrence of an event or condition.
The owner of a fee simple absolute has the following rights:
- The right of possession
- The right of alienation
- The right of exclusion
Traditionally, the words of conveyance required to create a fee simple absolute were akin to "from A to B and his heirs." A fee simple absolute, however, is the preferred property interest and Courts will view any conveyance as a fee simple absolute unless there is clear language to the contrary.
As previously stated, most property interests are conveyed as a fee simple absolute. A reading of the deed should indicate the type of interest owned. If there are no words of conveyance that indicate that a fee tail, life estate, or fee simple defeasible has been conveyed, then the interest is most likely a fee simple absolute.
If you are uncertain about the language in the deed, then consult an estate lawyer or a property lawyer to figure out what type of property interest you possess. Additionally, if you would like to convey property in a particular manner consult an estate or property lawyer to draft the conveyance according to your wishes.