Fee Simple “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “fee simple” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition) & Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition):

 

 

(Ballantine’s)

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].

 

(Black’s)

In English law, a freehold estate of inheritance, absolute and unqualified. It stands at the head of estates as the highest in dignity and the most ample in extent; since every other kind of estate is derivable thereout, and mergeable therein. It may be enjoyed not only in land, but also in advowsons, commons, estovers, and other hereditaments, as well as in personalty, as an annuity or dignity, and also in an upper chamber, though the lower buildings and soil belong to another [Wharton].

In American law, an absolute or fee-simple estate is one in which the owner is entitled to the entire property, with unconditional power of disposition during his life, and descending to his heirs and legal representatives upon his death intestate [Code Ga. 1882, § 2246 and see Friedman v. Steiner, 107 Ill. 131; Woodberry v. Matherson, 19 Fla. 785; Lyle v. Richard, 9 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 374; Loventhal v. Home Ins. Co., 112 Ala. 108, 20 South. 419, 33 L.R.A. 258, 57 Am. St. Rep. 17; Dumont v. Dufore, 27 Ind. 267].

  • Fee-simple signifies a pure fee; an absolute estate of inheritance; that which a person holds inheritable to him and his heirs general forever. It is called “fee-simple,” that is, “pure,” because clear of any condition or restriction to particular heirs, being descendible to the heirs general, whether male or female, lineal or collateral. It is the largest estate and most extensive interest that can be enjoyed in land, being the entire property therein, and it confers an unlimited power of alienation [Haynes v. Bourn, 42 Vt. 686].
  • A fee-simple is the largest estate known to the law, and where no words of qualification or limitation are added, it means an estate in possession, and owned in severalty. It is undoubtedly true that a person may own a remainder or reversion in fee. But such an estate is not a fee-simple; it is a fee qualified or limited. So, when a person owns in common with another, he does not own the entire fee, – a fee-simple; it is a fee divided or shared with another [Brackett v. Ridlon, 54 Me. 426].
  • Absolute and conditional: a fee simple absolute in an estate which is limited absolutely to a man and his heirs and assigns forever, without limitation or condition [Frisby v. Balance, 7 Ill. 144]. At the common law, an estate in fee simple conditional was a fee limited or restrained to some particular heirs, exclusive or others. But the statute “De Donis” converted all such estates into estates tail [2 Bl. Comm. 110].

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