Estate in land

An estate in land is an interest in real property that is or may become possessory.

In the legal systems of almost every country, the ultimate true "owner" of all land is the sovereign, which for a republic is the whole people of a society, which with sovereign, exclusive control over a well-defined tract of land, may be called a "state". Private parties own not the underlying land, but claims on parcels of land, which taken together define the estate for that parcel. This superior ownership is the basis for taking the land through eminent domain. However, the claims that define the estate are themselves personal property.

This should be distinguished from an "estate" as used in reference to an area of land, and "estate" as used to refer to property in general.

In property law, the rights and interests associated with an estate in land may be conceptually understood as a "bundle of rights" because of the potential for different parties having different interests in the same real property.

Categories of estates

Estates in land can be divided into four basic categories:

  1. Freehold estates: rights of conveyable exclusive possession and use, having immobility and indeterminate duration
    • fee simple
      • fee simple absolute—most rights, least limitations, indefeasible
    • defeasible estate—voidable possession and use
      • fee simple determinable
      • fee simple subject to a condition subsequent
      • fee simple subject to executory limitation
    • finite estate—limited to lifetimes
      • life estate—fragmented possession and use for duration of someone's life
      • fee tail—inalienable rights of inheritance for duration of family line
  2. Leasehold estates: rights of possession and use but not ownership. The lessor (owner/landlord) gives this right to the lessee (tenant). There are four categories of leasehold estates:
    1. estate for years (a term of year absolute or tenancy for years)—lease of any length with specific begin and end date
    2. periodic estate (periodic tenancy)—automatically renewing lease (month to month, week to week)
    3. estate at will (tenancy at will)—leasehold for no fixed time or period. It lasts as long as both parties desire. Termination is bilateral (either party may terminate at any time) or by operation of law.
    4. tenancy at sufferance—created when tenant remains after lease expires and becomes a holdover tenant, converts to holdover tenancy upon landlord acceptance.
  3. Concurrent estates: owned or possessed by two or more individuals simultaneously.
    1. tenancy by the entirety
    2. joint tenancy
    3. tenancy in common
    4. statutory estates: created by law
  4. Equitable estates: neither ownership nor possession
    • Future interests — interests in real or personal property, a gift or trust, or other things in which the privilege of possession or of enjoyment is in the future and not the present
      • reversions
      • possibilities of reverter
      • powers of termination, also known as rights of reentry for condition broken
      • remainders
      • executory interests
    • Incorporeal interests — those that cannot be possessed physically, since they consist of rights of a particular user, or the right to enforce an agreement concerning use
    • Lien
      • general
      • specific
Allod

An allod (Old Low Franconian allōd ‘fully owned estate’, from all ‘full, entire’ and ōd ‘estate’, Medieval Latin allodium), also allodial land or allodium, refers, in the law of the Middle Ages and early Modern Period and especially within the Holy Roman Empire, to a freehold estate in land over which the allodial landowner (allodiary) had full ownership and right of alienation.

Determinable

Determinable may refer to:

Fee simple, an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership

Property (philosophy), an attribute of an object

Disseisor

A disseisor is the person who has taken adverse possession of real property from the legal owner; ie., who has taken actual possession or occupation of the property without the permission of the legal owner. In property law, the disseisor deprives the legal owner of possession or seisin of an estate in land, thus "dis-seizing" (dispossessing) the legal owner.

A disseisee, the correlative, is the legal owner who has been put out of an estate unlawfully.

Doctrine of worthier title

In the common law of England, the doctrine of worthier title was a legal doctrine that preferred taking title to real estate by descent over taking title by devise or by purchase. It essentially provides that a remainder cannot be created in the grantor's heirs, at least not by those words.

The rule provided that where a testator undertook to convey an heir the same estate in land that the heir would take under the laws of inheritance, the heir would be adjudged to have taken title to the land by inheritance rather than by the conveyance, because descent through the bloodline was held to be "worthier" than a conveyance through a legal instrument.

English feudal barony

In the kingdom of England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was the highest degree of feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam (Latin for "by barony"), under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. The duties owed by and the privileges granted to feudal barons cannot now be defined exactly, but they involved the duty of providing soldiers to the royal feudal army on demand by the king, and the privilege of attendance at the king's feudal court, the precursor of parliament.

If the estate-in-land held by barony contained a significant castle as its caput baroniae and if it was especially large – consisting of more than about 20 knight's fees (each loosely equivalent to a manor) – then it was termed an honour. The typical honour had properties scattered over several shires, intermingled with the properties of others. This was a specific policy of the Norman kings, to avoid establishing any one area under the control of a single lord. Usually, though, a more concentrated cluster existed somewhere. Here would lie the caput (head) of the honour, with a castle that gave its name to the honour and served as its administrative headquarters. The term honour particular usefulness for the eleventh and twelfth centuries, before the development of an extensive peerage hierarchy.

This type of barony must be distinguished from a barony, also feudal, which existed within a county palatine, such as the barony of Halton within the Palatinate of Chester.

Escheat

Escheat is a common law doctrine that transfers the real property of a person who died without heirs to the Crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in "limbo" without recognized ownership. It originally applied to a number of situations where a legal interest in land was destroyed by operation of law, so that the ownership of the land reverted to the immediately superior feudal lord.

Estate (law)

An estate, in common law, is the net worth of a person at any point in time alive or dead. It is the sum of a person's assets – legal rights, interests and entitlements to property of any kind – less all liabilities at that time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person. (See inheritance.)

Depending on the particular context, the term is also used in reference to an estate in land or of a particular kind of property (such as real estate or personal estate). The term is also used to refer to the sum of a person's assets only.

The equivalent in civil law legal systems is patrimony.

Fee simple

In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is a way that real estate and land may be owned in common law countries, and is the highest possible ownership interest that can be held in real property. Allodial title is reserved to governments under a civil law structure. The rights of the fee simple owner are limited by government powers of taxation, compulsory purchase, police power, and escheat, and it could also be limited further by certain encumbrances or conditions in the deed, such as, for example, a condition that required the land to be used as a public park, with a reversion interest in the grantor if the condition fails; this is a fee simple conditional.

Feoffee

Under the feudal system in England, a feoffee is a trustee who holds a fief (or "fee"), that is to say an estate in land, for the use of a beneficial owner. The term is more fully stated as a feoffee to uses of the beneficial owner. The use of such trustees developed towards the end of the era of feudalism in the middle ages and became obsolete with the formal ending of that social and economic system in 1660. Indeed the development of feoffees to uses may have hastened the end of the feudal system, since their operation circumvented vital feudal fiscal mechanisms.

Feoffment

In the Middle Ages, especially under the European feudal system, feoffment or enfeoffment was the deed by which a person was given land in exchange for a pledge of service. This mechanism was later used to avoid restrictions on the passage of title in land by a system in which a landowner would give land to one person for the use of another. The common law of estates in land grew from this concept.

Feudal relief

Feudal relief was a one-off "fine" or form of taxation payable to an overlord by the heir of a feudal tenant to license him to take possession of his fief, i.e. an estate-in-land, by inheritance. It is comparable to a death duty or inheritance tax.

The equivalent duty at the lower levels of the feudal hierarchy was heriot (in England) or le droit du meilleur catel (in France).

Freehold (law)

In common law jurisdictions like England and Wales, United States, Australia, Canada, and Ireland, a freehold is the common ownership of real property, or land, and all immovable structures attached to such land. It is in contrast to a leasehold: in which the property reverts to the owner of the land after the lease period has expired. For an estate to be a freehold, it must possess two qualities: immobility (property must be land or some interest issuing out of or annexed to land) and ownership of it must be of an indeterminate duration. If the time of ownership can be fixed and determined, it cannot be a freehold.It is "An estate in land held in fee simple, fee tail or for term of life." A subset is a perpetual freehold, which is "an estate given to a grantee for life, and then successively to the grantee's heirs for life."In England and Wales, before the Law of Property Act 1925, a freehold estate transferable to the owner's "heirs and assigns" (successors by inheritance, or purchase (including gift), respectively) was a fee simple estate. A fee tail estate describes when transfer (by inheritance or otherwise) was limited to lineal descendants of the first person to whom the estate was given (known as "heirs of the body" or "heirs of the blood"). There were also freehold estates not of inheritance, such as an estate for life.

Gage (finance)

In medieval finance, a gage or gage of land was a usufructory pledge of real property. The gage came in two forms:

the dead gage (Scots deid wad, French mort-gage, German Zinssatzung); or

the living gage (Welsh prid, Fr vif-gage, G Totsatzung).When a feudal tenant or landlord needed liquid resources, they could pledge their estate in land, as collateral, for a money loan. Since the gaged collateral was typically a piece of real property which generated revenue (e.g. a farm which produced crops, a mill which processed food, a pasture that provided milk or wool, etc.), the lender-gagee received the rents and profits of the land. Under the terms of a living gage, these rents and profits reduced the amount the borrower-gagor owed, while under a dead gage they did not. This meant that if the property was prosperous enough, or the loan small enough, a property in living gage could pay off the debt itself; in other words, it was self-redeeming. On the other hand, with a dead gage, the property's rents and profits did not go toward satisfying the principal, but instead constituted interest on the loan, which made it a form of usury. As a result, dead gages were denounced as immoral/illegal among Catholic theologians.

Land tenure

In common law systems, land tenure is the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land. It determines who can use land, for how long, and under what conditions. Tenure may be based both on official laws and policies, and on informal customs. The French verb "tenir" means "to hold" and "tenant" is the present participle of "tenir". The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenants. Tenure signifies the relationship between tenant and lord, not the relationship between tenant and land. Over history, many different forms of land ownership, i.e., ways of owning land, have been established.

A landholder/landowner is a holder of the estate in land with considerable rights of ownership or, simply put, an owner of land.

Manor

A manor in English law is an estate in land to which is incident the right to hold a court termed court baron, that is to say a manorial court. The proper unit of tenure under the feudal system is the fee (or fief), on which the manor became established through the process of time, akin to the modern establishment of a "business" upon a freehold site. The manor is nevertheless often described as the basic feudal unit of tenure and is historically connected with the territorial divisions of the march, county, hundred, parish and township.

Seisin

Seisin (or seizin) denotes the legal possession of a feudal fiefdom or fee, that is to say an estate in land. It was used in the form of "the son and heir of X has obtained seisin of his inheritance", and thus is effectively a term concerned with conveyancing in the feudal era. The person holding such estate is said to be "seized of it", a phrase which commonly appears in inquisitions post mortem (i.e. "The jurors find that X died seized of the manor of ..."). The monarch alone "owned" all the land of England by his allodial right and all his subjects were merely his tenants under various contracts of feudal tenure.

Tenement (law)

A tenement (from the Latin tenere to hold), in law, is anything that is held, rather than owned. This usage is a holdover from feudalism, which still forms the basis of all real-estate law in the English-speaking world, in which the monarch alone owned the allodial title to all the land within his kingdom.

Under feudalism, land itself was never privately "owned" but rather was "held" by a tenant (from Latin teneo "to hold") as a fee, being merely a legal right over land known in modern law as an estate in land. This was held from a superior overlord, ( a mesne lord), or from the crown itself in which case the holder was termed a tenant-in-chief, upon some manner of service under one of a variety of feudal land tenures. The thing held is called a tenement, the holder is called a tenant, the manner of his holding is called a tenure, and the superior is called the landlord, or lord of the fee. These forms are still preserved in law, even though feudalism itself is extinct, because all real estate law has developed from them over centuries.

Feudal land tenure existed in many varieties. The sole surviving form in the United States is that species of freehold known as free socage. Here the service to be performed is known and fixed, and not of a base or servile nature; the "lord of the fee" is the State itself, and the service due to this "lord" is payment of the taxes upon the real estate. The major consequences, in the modern world, of this feudal approach, as distinguished from ownership, are, first, the forfeiture of the tenement upon failure to perform the service (that is, non-payment of taxes), and second, the doctrine of eminent domain, whereby the "lord of the fee" might take back the estate, provided he make just compensation. Also existing in a vestigial form is the concept of escheat, under which an estate of a holder without heirs returns to the ownership of the state.

An interesting side effect of this is that government entities do not pay real estate taxes to other government entities since government entities own the land rather than hold the land. Localities that depend on real estate taxes to provide services are often put at a disadvantage when the state or federal government acquires a piece of land. Sometimes, to mollify local public opinion, the state or federal government may volunteer to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT or PILT programs) to local governments.

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