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Fee Simple and Fee Simple Absolute

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What Is A Fee Simple?

A fee simple is an interest in property, often land, that has two unique characteristics: 

  1. The property may be possessed infinitely
  2. May be inherited by one's heirs. 

A property interest is not a fee simple if either one of these qualities is not present.

Are There Different Types of Fee Simple?

There are two types of fee simple property interests: 

  1. Fee simple defeasible
  2. Fee simple absolute

Fee Simple Defeasible

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.

Fee Simple Absolute

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.

Will I Need a Lawyer to Determine the Type of Estate I Have?

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 or 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.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-08-2014 08:43 AM PDT

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