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Common Law Estates and Present Interests

Real property ownership can be divided several ways. O, owning 100 acres of real property, might transfer 50 acres to A and the other 50 acres to B. Alternatively, O might sell the surface rights to A and the mineral rights to B. If he wanted, O could transfer the management rights to A (a trustee of a trust, for example) and the income and profits interest to B (the beneficiary of the trust). The next few chapters develop a fourth method of dividing up ownership: over time. O, for example, might transfer acreage to A for a period of time (say, ten years) and then give it to B for the rest of the time, or might give it to A “for life” (this is known as a life estate, meaning it lasts as long as A lives, and no longer) and then give it to B for the rest of the time, meaning that B will wind up, after A dies, owning the property in perpetuity. In other words, property can be divided physically, but may also be divided along a timeline.

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