estate – the amount, degree, nature, and quality of a person’s interest in property, usually “real estate interest which may become possessory”

     This page is continued from  Law of Property >>>> Property >>>> Interest:



1. The amount, degree, nature, and quality of a person’s interest in land or other property; especially, a real estate interest that may become possessory; the ownership being measured in terms of duration.  See periodic tenancy under TENANCY. [1]

1. In the pristine technical sense, the degree, quantity, nature, and extent of interest which a person has in real property. 28 Am J2d Est § 1.

Otherwise, a word of several meanings, neither of which imports a legal entity; the property left by a decedent, the property of a ward, a mentally incompetent person, or a bankrupt; in its most popular sense including both real and personal property. Re Glassord’s Estate, 114 Cal App 2d 908, 34 ALR2d 1259.

Including every vested right and interest attached to and growing out of property. Lee v Hill, 87 Va 497, 12 SE 1052.

Including tangible and intangible property. Anno: 34 ALR2d 1271.

Including even a contract of employment for personal services. Lee v Hill, 87 Va 497, 12 SE 1052.

When used in a will, usually, but not necessarily, comprehending all property of the testator whether real or personal in character. 57 Am J1st Wills § 1337.

It includes both real and personal property, and is sufficient to pass a fee in land unless restricted by words expressing a different intention.  It has long been held that the devise of all a man’s “estate,” where there are not words to restrain or control its operation, should be construed not merely to mean his lands, but the quantity of interest which he has in them.  The word may likely include and equitable interest.  however, the word “estate” in a will is not to be understood as a word of art, but of interpretation, and its meaning may be affected by other clauses and disposition in the will. 57 Am J1st Wills § 1337.

A person’s degree or rank in life. [2]

1. The right, title, and interest a person has in real or personal property, either tangible or intangible.  Estates in real property (estates in land or landed estates) include both freehold estates (EXAMPLES: a fee simple; a fee tail; a life estate) and estates less than freehold (EXAMPLES: estates for years; estates at will ).

2. The property itself.

3. The property left by a decedent; i.e., a decedent’s estate.
     See gross estate; net estate.

4. The property of a bankrupt; i.e., a bankruptcy estate.

5. The property of a ward or mentally incompetent person.

6. A person’s social standing or standing in the community.
     See conditional estate; dominant estate; expectant estate; future estate; particular estate; qualified estate; residuary estate; servient estate; separate estate; trust estate; vested estate.

Note that to fully understand the definitions of the many kinds of estates in land that the law recognizes, it is necessary to know that a tenant is not only a person who leases an apartment, a house, or commercial premises, but is anyone who, although not owning land, has certain rights with respect to occupying or using it. [3]

Various Types of Estates in Land:

estate in land – the degree, quantity, nature, or extent of interest a person has in real property. — aka landed property.

  • absolute estate – a full, complete estate in real property wherein the owner has complete, unqualified and unconditional possession, control, dominion, and right of disposition which descends to his heirs upon his death (if his will does not otherwise direct).
  • contingent estate an estate in land that vests (transfers in ownership) only if a specified event does or does not happen. aka estate on contingency; estate on condition; estate upon condition.
    • estate on condition – an (contingent) estate in land that vests, is modified, or is defeated upon the occurrence or non-occurrence of some specified event. — aka estate on conditional limitation; conditional estate; estate upon condition.
      • estate on condition expressed – a contingent estate in which the condition upon which the estate will fail is stated explicitly in the granting instrument. — aka estate upon condition expressed.
      • estate on condition implied – a contingent estate having some condition that is so inseparable from the estate’s essence that it need not be expressed in words.
  • freehold estate – an estate in land held in fee simple, fee tail, or for term of life; any real property interest that is or may become possessory.  — aka freehold estate; estate in freehold; freehold interest; frank-tenement; liberum tenementum.
    • determinable estate – an estate that is defeasible (capable of being cancelled) by operation of a special limitation. — aka determinable freehold.
    • fee simple absolute – the broadest real property interest (estate in land) allowed by law; exclusive, hereditable ownership — Often shortened to fee simple orfee. — aka fee simple absolute in possession.; estate ad remanentiam.
      • base fee (estate, tenancy) – a hereditable estate in land which has the possibility of lasting forever, but with a qualification (limitation) annexed to it which ends such interest if a certain event blocks its continued existence. aka determinable fee.
    • 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.
    • life estate – held only for the duration of a specified person’s life, usually the possessor’s. — aka estate for lifelegal life estate; life tenancy.
  • nonfreehold estate – any estate in real property without seisin; any estate except a fee simple, fee tail, or life estate.
    • estate less than freehold – an estate for years, estate at will, or estate at sufferance.
      • estate at sufferance – when a person who was in lawful possession of property wrongfully remains as a holdover after their interest has expired, when their right to possession has ended. — aka holdover tenancy; tenancy at sufferance,
      • estate at will – the tenant holds possession with the landlord’s consent but without fixed terms; may be terminated by either party upon fair notice. — aka at-will tenancy; tenancy at will.
      • estate for years (tenancy for a term) – an interest (estate) securing a tenancy, arising from an agreement or lease (or other contract) which must expire at a certain period, fixed in advance. — aka tenancy for years; term for years; term of years; estate for a term; tenancy for a term; lease for years.
        • tenancy attendant on the inheritance – a tenancy for a term vested in a trustee in trust for the owner of the inheritance, as a form of personal property to the trustee. — aka tenancy attendant on an inheritance; term attendant on the inheritance.
        • tenancy in gross – a tenancy for a term that is unattached or disconnected from the estate or inheritance, such as one that is in the hands of some third party having no interest in the inheritance.

Number of People Holding an Estate,
and the Manner in Which its Held:

concurrent estateownership or possession of property by two or more persons at the same time.

  • joint estate (tenancy) – an estate held by two more more persons jointly, with equal rights to share in its enjoyment during their lives, and having as its distinguishing feature the right of survivorship.
    • tenancy by the entirety – an (tenancy and) estate in land or in personal property that exists between husband and wife; jointly owned with right to survivorship. — aka estate by the entirety; estate by entireties; estate by the entireties; tenancy by the entirety; tenancy by the entireties.
    • estate in partnership – a joint estate that is vested in the members of a partnership when real estate is purchased with partnership funds and for partnership purposes.
  • estate (tenancy) in common – a tenancy by two or more persons, in equal or unequal undivided shares, each person having an equal right to possess the whole property but no right of survivorship.

separate estate – The individual property of one of two persons who stand in a marital or business relationship.  See SEPARATE PROPERTY.

Equitable and Legal Estates:

equitable estate – an estate or interest in property recognized only in equity, especially a trust.

  • equitable life estate – an equitable estate (interest) in real or personal property that lasts for the life of the holder of the estate. (e.g. a life estate held by a trust beneficiary)

legal estate – an interest (estate in property) recognized by and enforced in law rather than in equity.

Types of Estates
Held as a Security, as Collateral, or to Satisfy a Debt:

estate in vadio (in vad-ee-oh) – An estate in gage or pledge.  See MORTGAGE.

estate in gage – an estate that has been pledged as security for a debt.

estate by statute staple – an estate held under a bond as security for a commercial debt, giving the lender a possessory right in the land of a debtor who failed to repay a loan.

estate by elegit – held by a judgment creditor, entitling the creditor to the rents and profits from land owned by the debtor until the debt is paid.

Various Types of Estates:

derivative estate – a particular interest that has been carved out of another, larger estate.

  • original estate – An estate that is the first of one or more derivative estates, bearing to each other the relation of a particular estate and a reversion.

estate by purchase – an estate acquired by any method except descent.

estate in possession (17c) An estate in which a present interest passes to the tenant; an estate in which the tenant is entitled to receive the rents and other profits arising from the estate. [1]

estate in remainder See REMAINDER (1).

estate in reversion See REVERSION (1).

estate on limitation (18c) An estate that automatically reverts back to the grantor according to a provision, usually regarding the passage of a determined time period, designated by words such as “during,” “while,” and “as long as.” See fee simple determinable under FEE SIMPLE.  Cf. estate on condition. [1]

estate pur autre vie. See life estate pur autre vie.

estate tail quasi – An estate granted by a life tenant, who, despite using language of conveyance that is otherwise sufficient to create an estate tail, is unable to grant in perpetuity.

executed estate See REMAINDER (1).

fast estate – See real property under PROPERTY.

future estate See future interest‘under INTEREST (2).

leasehold estate See LEASEHOLD.

life estate pur autre vie (par oh-tra vee) – (1888) A life estate for which the measuring life — the life whose duration determines the duration of the estate — is someone’s other than the possessor’s. — Also spelled life estate per autre we.

marital estate See marital property under PROPERTY.

mesne estate (17c) Hist. An estate held by a feudal lord who received it from a superior lord.  See MESNE LORD.

next eventual estate (1836) An estate taking effect upon an event that terminates the accumulation of undisposed rents and profits; an estate taking effect when the existing estate terminates.

particular estate – An estate or interest less than a fee simple, such as a fee tail, a life estate, or a term for years.  *  It is so called because the estate is a mere part (particular) of the fee simple.

possessory estate (18c) An estate giving the holder the right to possess the property, with or without an ownership interest in the property.

present estate – An estate in immediate possession; one vested at the present time, as distinguished from a future estate.  See present interest under INTEREST (2).

qualified estate (18c) Any estate that is not absolute and unconditional; a limited or conditional estate. [1]

1. See qualified fee; qualified interest. [2]

reversionary estate See REVERSION.

settled estate (18c) An estate created or limited under a settlement; an estate in which the powers of alienation, devising, and transmission according to the ordinary rules of descent are restrained by the settlement’s terms. [1]

stipendiary estate(stI-pen-dee-er-ee) (1880) Hist. An estate granted in return for services, usually of a military kind.

vested estate – (18c) An estate with a present right of enjoyment or a present fixed right of future enjoyment.

2. All that a person or entity owns, including both real and personal property.

bankruptcy estateSee BANKRUPTCY ESTATE.

3. The property that one leaves after death; the collective assets and liabilities of a dead person.

   “The word ‘estate’ was probably adopted because in early days it was possible to ascertain a man’s status or position in life by discovering the particular kind of tenure by which he held his lands.  The quality of his tenure gave a clue to his status.  The baron for example ought in theory to be the holder of a barony; he has the status of a baron because he has the estate of a baron. . . . [O]ne of the distinguishing marks of [the] freehold estates was the uncertainty of their duration.  They were invariably held either for life, or for some other space of time dependent upon an event which might not happen within a lifetime, and thus a freehold estate came to be regarded as one which involved the per. formance of free services only, but as one which endured for an uncertain time. In this way, the word ‘estate’ came to denote the quantity of a man’s interest in land.” Gt“ Cheshire, Modern Law of Real Property 26 (3d ed. 1933).

ancestral estate (1850) An estate that is acquired by descent or by operation of law with no other consideration than that of blood.

nonancestral estate: (1868) An estate from any source other than the owner’s ancestors. — aka nonancestral property.

augmented estate (1967) A refinement of the elective share to which a surviving spouse is entitled, whereby the “fair share” is identified as something other than the traditional one-third of the probate estate.  *  The current version of the Uniform Probate Code uses a sliding scale that increases with each year of marriage.  Under the UPC, a surviving spouse has accrued full marital-property rights after 15 years of marriage.  This percentage of spousal entitlement is applied to a reconceptualization of the decedent’s estate to take into account more than just the assets remaining in the probate estate at death.  Also added into the calculation are the value of certain inter vivos transfers that the decedent made to others in a way that depleted the probate estate; the .Value of similar transfers made to others by the spouse as well as the value of the marital property owned by the spouse at the decedent’s death; and the value of inter vivos transfers of property made by the decedent to the spouse. The Uniform Probate Code adopted this version of the augmented-estate concept in an attempt to equalize the treatment of surviving spouses in non-community~ property states vis-a-vis community property states. Unif. Probate Code § 2-202.  See ELECTIVE SHARE.

insolvent estate – the estate of a decedent which is to be administered according to a special statutory method because its assets are insufficient to cover its debts, taxes, and administrative expenses.

estate of inheritance (16c) An estate that may descend to heirs. [1]

1. A freehold interest in land, otherwise called a fee, where the tenant is not only entitled to enjoy the land for his own life, but where, after his death, it is passed by the law upon the person or persons who successfully represent him in perpetuum in right of blood, according to a certain established order of descent. 28 Am J2d Est § 8. [2]

1. Also known as a fee, a freehold interest in land that is inheritable; i.e. an interest which the tenant is not only entitled to enjoy for his own lifetime, but which, after his death, if he leaves no will, his heirs will inherit under the intestate laws. [3]


heirless estate (1956) The property of a person who dies intestate and without heirs.  See ESCHEAT.


net estate See net probate estate under PROBATE ESTATE.

probate estate – 


decedent’s estate (18c) The real and personal property that a person possesses at the time of death and that passes to the heirs or testamentary beneficiaries.

  • gross estate (1833) 1. The total value of a decedent’s property without any deductions.  2. Loosely, adjusted gross estate.
  • residuary estate (18c) The part of a decedent’s estate remaining after payment of all debts, expenses, statutory claims, taxes, and testamentary gifts (special, general, and demonstrative) have been made. — aka residual estate; residue; residuary; residuum.
  • taxable estate (18c) A decedent’s gross estate reduced by allowable deductions (such as administration costs and ESOP deductions). IRC (26 USCA) § 2051.  *  The taxable estate is the amount that is subject to the federal unified transfer tax at death.
  • adjusted gross estate (1932) 1. The total value of a decedent’s property after subtracting administration expenses, funeral expenses, creditors’ claims, and casualty losses.  *  The value of the adjusted gross estate is used in computing the federal estate tax. Cf. net probate estate under PROBATE ESTATE.  2. See gross estate (1).



4, A tract of land, especially one affected by an easement.

     “The old definitions of this word [estate] generally conflne it to lands or realty. Thus, according to Lord Coke, ‘state or estate signifieth such inheritance, freehold, term for years, &c., as any man hath in lands or tenements.’ Co. Litt. 345a. So Cowell deiines it to be ‘that title or interest which a man hath in lands or tenements,’ and the same definition is given in the Termes de la Ley. And this limited sense of the word has been relied on, in argument, in some cases . . . . But, according to the settled modern doctrine, the term estate is of much more extensive import and application, being indeed genus generalissimum, and clearly comprehending things personal as well as real; person as well as real estate.” 1 Alexander M. Burrill, A Law Dictionary and Glossary 561 (2d ed. 1867).

Estates with Easements:

dominant estate (18c) An estate that benefits from an easement.— aka dominant tenement; dominant property; upper estate.  Cf. servient estate,

servient estate (18c) An estate burdened by an easement. — aka servient tenement; servient property; lower estate.  Cf. dominant estate.

estate duty. See DUTY (4).

estate from period to period. See periodic tenancy under TENANCY.

estate in expectancy. See future interest under INTEREST (2).

Related Terms:

estate agent See real-estate agent under AGENT.

estate freeze (1986) An estate-planning maneuver whereby an owner of a closely held business exchanges common stock for dividend-paying preferred stock and gives the common stock to his or her children, thus seeking to guarantee an income in retirement and to avoid estate tax on future appreciation in the business’s value.

estate planning (1938) 1. The preparation for the distribution and management of a person’s estate at death through the use of wills, trusts, insurance policies, and other arrangements, esp. to reduce administration costs and transfer-tax liability.

2. A branch of law that involves the arrangement of a person’s estate, taking into account the laws of wills, taxes, insurance, property, and trusts.

Mates of the realm (16c) Engiish law. 1. The lords spiritual, the lords temporal, and the commons of the United Kingdom. — aka the three estates.

2. In feudal Europe, the clergy, nobles, and commons.  *  Because the rds spiritual had no separate assembly or negative in political capacity, some authorities reduce the estates United Kingdom to two, the lords and commons. In an ‘ about the 14th century), the three estatese the clergy, barons, and knights.  In legal practice, the lords spiritual and lords temporal are usu. collectively designated simply as lords.

estate’s property See PROPERTY OF THE ESTATE

estate tax See TAX.

estate trust See TRUST (3).


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.


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