fee (simple absolute) – the broadest real property interest (estate in land) allowed by law; exclusive, hereditable ownership

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fee simple absolute:
(18c)

1. An estate of indefinite or potentially infinite duration (e.g., “to Albert and his heirs”). — Often shortened to fee simple or fee. — aka fee simple absolute in possession. [1]

1. A fee simple. [2]

1. Same as fee simple. [3]

     Excerpt from Thomas F. Bergin and Paul G. Haskell’s Preface to Estates In Land and Future Interests (2d ed. 1984):

     “Although it is probably good practice to use the word ‘absolute’ whenever one is referring to an estate in fee simple that is free of special limitation, condition subsequent, or executory limitation, lawyers frequently refer to such an estate as a ‘fee simple’ or even as a ‘fee.’ [2]

fee simple:
(15c)

1. An interest in land that, being the broadest property interest allowed by law, endures until the current holder dies without heirs; especially, a fee simple absolute— Often shortened to fee. — aka estate in fee simpletenancy in fee; fee-simple title; exclusive ownership; feudum simplex; estate in fee.  See AND HIS HEIRS. [1]

1. The largest estate in land known to the law and implying absolute dominion over the land; an estate of inheritance clear of any condition, limitation, or restriction, to particular heirs. 28 Am J2d Est § 10.

An estate of lawful inheritance or pure inheritance, “fee” standing for inheritance and “simple” for pure or lawful.  A legal or equitable estate in land constituting the largest estate and implying absolute dominion, although possibly subject to executory limitations or conditions subsequent. Hay’s Estate v Commissioner (CA5) 181 F2d 169; 39 ALR2d 453; Ford v Unity Church Society, 120 Mo 498, 25 SW 394. [2]

1. Also known as fee simple absolute; the most complete estate in land known to the law.  it signifies total ownership and control.  it may be inherited free of any condition, limitation, or restriction by particular heirs.
     Compare fee tail.  See estate of inheritance. [3]

     Excerpt from Peter Butt’s Land Law (2d ed. 1988):

     “[Fee simple] is a term not likely to be found in modern conversation between laymen, who would in all probability find it quite unintelligible.  Yet to a layman of the 14th century the term would have been perfectly intelligible, for it refers to the elementary social relationship of feudalism with which he was fully familiar: the words ‘fee’ and ‘feudal’ are closely related. . . . The estate in fee simple is the largest estate known to the law, ownership of such an estate being the nearest approach to ownership of the land itself which is consonant with the feudal principle of tenure.  It is ‘the most comprehensive estate in land which the law recognizes’; it is the ‘most extensive in quantum, and the most absolute in respect to the rights which it confers, of all estates known to the law.’  Traditionally, the fee simple has two distinguishing features:

first, the owner ( ‘tenant’ in fee simple) has the power to dispose of the fee simple, either inter vivos or by will;
second, on intestacy the fee simple descends, in the absence of lineal heirs, to collateral heirs — to a brother, for example, if there is no issue. [3]

     Excerpt from Robert E. Megarry & M.P. Thompson’s A Manual of the Law of Real Property (6th ed. 1993):

     “Fee simple.  Originally this was an estate which endured for as long as the original tenant or any of his heirs survived. ‘Heirs’ comprised any blood relations, although originally ancestors were excluded; not until the Inheritance Act 1833 could a person be the heir of one of his descendants.  Thus at first a fee simple would terminate if the original tenant died without leaving any descendants or collateral blood relations (e.g., brothers or cousins), even if before his death the land had been conveyed to another tenant who was still alive.  But by 1306 it was settled that where a tenant in fee simple alienated the land, the fee simple would continue as long as there were heirs of the new tenant and so on, irrespective of any failure of the original tenant’s heirs. Thenceforward a fee simple was virtually eternal. [4]

fee:

1. A heritable interest in land; especially, a fee simple absolute. — aka fee estate; feod; feodum; feudfeudum; fief. [1]

1. An estate in real property, which, unless qualified by additional terminology, is an estate in inheritance where the tenant is not only entitled to enjoy the land for his own life, but where, after his death, it is cast by law upon the persons who successfully represent him in perpetuum in right of blood, according to a certain established order of descent. 19 Am 12d Est § 8. Often used as a synonym of fee simple.

The word was originally used in contradistinction to the word “allodium,” and signifies that which was held of another, on condition of rendering him a service.  And although the word is now generally used to express the quantum of the estate, it is also used to designate a fee simple. Hay’s Estate v Commissioner (CA5) 181 PM 169, 39 ALR2d 453; Wendell v Crandall, 1 NY 491, 495.
     See conditional fee; determinable fee; fee tail. [2]

1. An estate in real property that may be inherited (USAGE: “Robin holds her land in fee; Lee has a fee inerest in his farm.”)  When “fee” is used without words of limitation (for EXAMPLE: base fee, conditional fee, determinable fee, or qualified fee), it always means fee simple.
     See estate of inheritance.  Compare estate less than freehold; estate of freehold not of inheritance. [3]

     Excerpt from Thomas F. Bergin & Paul G. Haskell’s Preface to Estates in Land and Future Interests (2d ed. .1984):

     “To enfeoff someone was to transfer to him an interest in land called a fief — or, if you prefer, a feoff, feod, or feud. Our modern word fee, a direct lineal descendant of fiefimplies the characteristic of potentially infinite duration when used to describe an interest in land today; but in the earliest part of the feudal period, in a fief might have been as small as a life interest.  We shall. see later that feoffment was not used to transfer interests ‘smaller’ than life interests: e.g., so-called terms for years — but for our purposes now we may simply note that transfers of interests for life or ‘larger’ were accomplished by livery of seisin. [5]

estate ad remanentiam (ad rem-a-nen-shee-am) – An estate in fee simple. [1]

Various Types of Qualified Fee:

base fee – base fee (estate, tenancy) – a hereditable estate in land that may last forever, but with a qualification (limitation) annexed to it which terminates such interest if a certain event(s) occurs.  aka determinable fee.limited fee.

fee simple defeasible – an estate that ends because there are no more heirs of the person to whom it is granted or because a special limitation, condition subsequent, or executory limitation takes effect. — aka defeasible fee simple; qualified fee.

fee simple determinable – an estate that will automatically end and revert to the grantor if some specified event occurs. — aka determinable fee; qualified fee; fee simple subject to common-law limitation; fee simple subject to special limitation; fee simple subject to special interest; base fee; estate on limitation.

quasi-fee – an estate in fee acquired wrongfully.

fee simple conditional – an estate conveyed to a man conditionally upon his having an heir.

fee simple subject to a condition subsequent – an estate subject to the grantor’s power to end the estate if some specified event happens.

fee simple subject to an executory limitation – (1856) A fee simple defeasible that is subject to divestment i favor of someone other than the grantor if a specified event happens (e.g., “to Albert and his heirs, but if t n property is ever used as a parking lot, then to Bob”). — aka fee simple subject to an executory interest.

arriere fee – a fee dependent on a superior one; a subfief. — aka arriere fief.

fee tail – a legal or equitable estate in lands that is heritable only by specified descendants of the original grantee, enduring until its current holder dies without issue, at which time it reverts to the original donor or his heirs. — aka entailed estate; estate tail; estate in tail; estate in fee tail; tenancy in tail; entail; feodum talliatum.

  • fee expectant – a fee tail created when land is given to a man and wife and the heirs of their bodies.
  • fee tail general (16c) A fee tail that is heritable by all of the property owner’s issue by any spouse.  *  Formerly, a grant “to A and the heirs of his body” created a fee tail general.
  • fee tail special (17c) A fee tail that restricts the eligibility of claimants by requiring a claimant to prove direct descent from the grantee and meet the special condition in the grant.  *  For example, the words “to A and the heirs of his body begotten on his wife Mary” meant that only descendants of A and Mary could inherit; A’s children by any other wife were excluded. An estate tail special could also be restricted to only male or only female descendants, as in “to A and the heirs male of his body.”

Historical Types of Fee Simple Estates:

great fee – historically, in feudal law, a fee received directly from the Crown.

knight’s fee – historically, the amount of land that gave rise to the obligation of knight service.

lay fee – a fee interest in land held by ordinary feudal tenure, generally for use in agricultural labor, and not for religious purposes

plowman’s fee – a species of tenure for peasants or small farmers by which the land descended in equal shares to all the tenant’s sons.

fee simple subject to a condition subsequent (1894) An estate subject to the grantor’s power to end the estate if some specified event happens (e.g., “to Albert and his heirs, on condition that no alcohol is sold on the premises”).  *  The future interest retained by the grantor is called a power of termination (or a right of entry). — Abbr. FSSCP. — aka fee simple on a condition subsequent; fee simple subject to a power of termination; fee simple upon condition.

fee simple subject to an executory limitation (1856) A fee simple defeasible that is subject to divestment in favor of someone other than the grantor if a specified event happens (e.g., “to Albert and his heirs, but if the property is ever used as a parking lot, then to Bob”). — aka fee simple subject to an executory interest.

 

b fee simple subject to common-law limitation. Seefee simple determinable.

v fee simple subject to special interest. See fee simple determinable.

> fee simple subject to special limitation. See fee simple determinable.

v fee simple upon condition. See fee simple subject to a condition subsequent.

fee-simple title. See FEE SIMPLE.

fee-splitting. (1913) 1. The division of attorney’s fees between two or more lawyers, esp. between the lawyer who handled a matter and the lawyer who referred the matter. 0 Some states consider this practice unethical. 2. The division of attorney’s fees between two or more lawyers who represent a client jointly but are not in the same iirm. 0 Under most states’ ethics rules, an attorney is prohibited from splitting a fee with a nonlawyer. Also termed fee-sharing; division of fees.

fee statement. (1941) A lawyer’s bill for services either already rendered or to be rendered, usu. including itemized expenses.

Related Terms:

absolute title (17c) An exclusive title to land; a title that excludes all others not compatible with it.  [1]

References:

Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Thomas F. Bergin & Paul G. Haskell, Preface to Estates In Land and Future Interests 24 (2d ed. 1984).

[5]: Peter Butt, Land Law 35 (2d ed. 1988).

[6]: Robert E. Megarry & M.P. Thompson, A Manual of the Law of Real Property 4-25 (6th ed. 1993).

[7]: Thomas F. Bergin & Paul G. Haskell, Preface to Estates in Land and Future Interests 11 (2d ed. .1984).

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