Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Fee Simple Definition:

Absolute ownership in jurisdictions which preserve traditional common law as the legal basis of land ownership..

Related Terms: Freehold, Fee Tail, Indefeasible

The most extensive tenure allowed under the feudal system - short of outright ownership - allowing the tenant to sell or convey by will or be transfer to a heir if the owner dies intestate.

In modern law, land held in many common law states is held in fee simple. This is as close as one can get to absolute ownership in common law.

Note these words quoted in Walsingham's Case:

"The land itself is one thing, and the estate in the land is another thing, for an estate in the land is a time in the land, or land for a time, and there are diversisties of estates which are no more than diversisties of time, for he who has a fee simple in land has a time in the land without end or the land for time without end."

As was stated in Megarry's The Law of Real Property:

"The largest estate in land, the fee simple, has come more and more to resemble absolute ownership, and its proprietor is commonly the owner of the land.

"The fee simple is the most substantial estate which can exist in land. Although strictly speaking, it is still held in tenure and therefore falls short of absolute ownership, in practice it is absolute ownership for nearly all traces of feudal burdens have disappeared."

In Standard Life v British Columbia Assessor, the British Columbia Court of Appeal noted that:

"(A)n estate in fee simple is the greatest estate and most extensive interest which a person can possess in land and property, being an absolute estate in perpetuity....

"(T)he fee simple interest is comprised of the entirety of the interests in the property."


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