Fee Simple Absolute: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Types of Estates in…
  • 1:45 Fee Simple Absolute Estate
  • 2:46 Determination of…
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Osborn

Nate Osborn is a real estate attorney in Denver, Colorado. His practice is focused on real estate litigation and real estate transactions. He graduated with B.A. from Texas Christian University in 2003. He received his J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007. He currenlty a licensed in Colorado and Nebraska. He frequently lectures on real estate related issues across the country.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the fee simple absolute estate interest in real property and discover how to identify when someone has a fee simple absolute estate interest in land.

Types of Estates in Real Property

Property ownership in the United States, generally speaking, has developed through the common law of England. Interestingly, most of our current property ownership terminology dates back to the English feudal systems when kings and queens ruled the world. The term fee derives from fief, which was the main component of feudalism, a medieval English (and European) societal system where land was held in exchange for an agreement to provide labor. In this same vein, the term estate is also an English word deriving from the English feudal system.

When a person sells land, the land does not physically change hands because such a task would be impossible. Indeed, unlike when someone sells a good (like food or clothing), which can usually be handed to the purchaser, land is much too big to physically transfer. Accordingly, the United States has established a legal system, derived from the English feudal system, whereby when a person sells land, it's the interest in the land, or the estate, that is conveyed.

There are different types of estates recognized in United States property law, including:

  • Freehold estates made up of the fee simple absolute estate, the fee simple determinable estate, the fee simple subject to a condition subsequent estate, the fee tail estate, and the life estate.
  • Nonfreehold estates are made up of, among other things, the leasehold estate for months, the leasehold estate for years, the leasehold estate at will, and the leasehold estate at sufferance.

The type of estate interest involved typically hinges on the nature and extent of ownership the buyer and seller have in the land. In this lesson, we'll focus on the fee simple absolute estate.

Fee Simple Absolute Estate

When a person owns a fee simple absolute estate interest, that person has the absolute right to use the land, possess it, dispose of it (through sale, will, gift, or in any other manner), and even damage it. In short, a fee simple absolute estate interest is the greatest and highest property ownership estate recognized by United States law. There are no restrictions on the fee simple absolute estate interest. The estate does not terminate automatically, and there is no event that will cause ownership of the property to revert back to the grantor.

The term ''fee simple absolute'' was coined because this estate in land never automatically terminates. In fact, the estate right can survive throughout the entire life of the property owner and then be transferred to the heirs of the property owner after his or her death. The fee simple absolute ownership interest also allows for a property owner to convey the accompanying water rights, convey the accompanying mineral interests, or grant an easement right across the land.

Determination of Estate Interest

When a fee simple absolute estate is conveyed, the respective deed will often use the term ''fee'' or ''fee simple'' or ''fee simple absolute'' in the conveyance language. The conveyance language will also not contain any possibilities when the estate interest could be terminated or ownership could revert back to the grantor. For example, in a warranty deed conveying 123 ABC Street in fee simple absolute, the deed might say: ''Grantor grants 123 ABC Street to Grantee in fee simple absolute.''

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