In legal terms, a fee simple, otherwise known as a fee simple absolute, is the greatest form of freehold ownership in land. It entitles the owner to unlimited rights over the property wherein he can exclusively possess or dispose of it as he pleases.
It is important to note that fee simple ownership can be limited by subdivision, deed, and zoning laws or covenants. This means that the property owner cannot commit any criminal acts, such as murder, on their land with the expectation of receiving impunity.
The duration of ownership is not limited and can be arranged for the entire lifetime of an individual or even beyond. Plus, the right can be passed along via a will to heirs.
There are various types of fee simple estates which are:
- fee simple absolute – wherein the previous grantors haven’t created any conditions for the grantee thereby making the estate freely inheritable and alienable for an indefinite duration. This needs to be conveyed along the lines of “to B, his heirs, and his assigns”.
- fee simple conditional – wherein an individual and their descendants is subject to a remainder or reversion interest if the grantee doesn’t have any direct descendants. This is only recognized in South Carolina though.
- fee simple defeasible – wherein the estate is automatically reverted to the grantor should a specified event or condition occur. This is conveyed by language through phrases such as “during the time that”, “until”, and “so long as”.