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 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.