usufruct -the right to the use, enjoyment, profits, and avails of property belonging to another

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n. [fr. Latin usufructus]

1. Roman & civil law. A right for a certain period to use and enjoy the fruits of another’s property without damaging or diminishing it, but allowing for any natural deterioration in the property over time.  *  In Roman law, the usufruct was considered a personal servitude, resulting in a real right.  In modern civil law, the owner of the usufruct is similar to a life tenant, and the owner of the property burdened is known as the naked owner. La. Civ. CODE: art. 535. — aka perfect usufruct; usufructus; ususfructus; (in Scots law) liferent.  Cf. HABITATION (3). [1]

1. The right to the use, enjoyment, profits, and avails of property belonging to another. Winsberg v Winsberg, 233 La 67, 96 So 2d 44. [2]

1. The right to the use, enjoyment, or profits of another’s property. [3]

     Excerpt from R.W. Leage’s Roman Private Law  (C.H. Ziegler ed., 2d ed. 1930):

     “Usufructus is . . . the right of using and enjoying property belonging to another provided the substance of the property remained unimpaired.   More exactly, a usufruct was the right granted to a man personally to use and enjoy, usually for his life . . . , the property of another which, when the usufruct ended, was to revert intact to the dominus or his heir.  It might be for a term of years, but even here it was ended by death, and in the case of a corporation (which never dies) Justinian fixed the period at 100 years.  A usufruct might be in land or buildings, a slave or beast of burden, and in fact in anything except things which were destroyed by use . . . , the reason, of course, being that it was impossible to restore such things at the end of the usufruct intact . . . . [4]

Types of Usufruct:

legal usufruct:

1. A usufruct established by operation of law, such as the right of a surviving spouse to property owned by the deceased spouse. La. Civ. Code art. 890.


l. A right to use property that cannot be used without being expended or consumed, such as money or food.  *  Unlike an ordinary usufruct, a quasi-usufruct actually involves alteration and diminution of the property used. — aka imperfect usufruct.

2. Louisiana law. A usufruct over consumable things, such as money or harvested crops, the value of which must be delivered to the naked owner at the end of the usufruct’s term. La. Civ. Code art. 538.  *  The usufructuary has the right to consume or alienate the consumables and, at the end of the usufruct, to deliver to the naked owner either the value that the things had when the usufruct began or things of the same quantity and quality. [1]

     Excerpt from James Adley’s Introduction to Roman Law 193 (1881):

     “The Roman jurists, therefore, would not acknowledge a usufruct of money; though, in their desire to carry out the wishes of testators, they came at length to recognize a quasi-usufruct.  For testators, being seldom learned in the law, would often set forth as legacies in their wills the usufruct of a designated sum . . . . In such a case the person named as legatee was allowed to receive the amount . . . on giving security that when he died the same amount should be paid out of his own estate to the heres, the heir of the testator. The relation here, though bearing some resemblance to the usufruct, was really quite different; the person who received the money became absolute owner of it; the heir had no ownership, nothing but the assurance of receiving an equal amount at some future time. [5]


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[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] R.W. Leage, Roman Private Law 181-82 (C.H. Ziegler ed., 2d ed. 1930).

[5]: James Adley, Introduction to Roman Law 193 (1881).


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