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ESTATES IN LAND & FUTURE INTERESTS

    “Students often find this material confusing and bizarre.” Joseph William Singer, Professor of Law, Harvard University. I tend to agree, though it is certainly both teachable and comprehensible. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that this system has evolved from deep historical roots that still influence the various categories and distinct rules that characterize this area of law. Despite the seeming archaic system and its many complexities, a court will essentially force disputed words of conveyance (i.e., transfer) to fit into one of these historical categories of estates, with particular legal consequences attaching to the label applied.
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    Present Possessory Estates:

    • Fee Simple Absolute – “to A” or (historically) “to A and her heirs”
    • Defeasible Fee Simple:
    • Fee Simple Determinable – “to A so long as” (or “while” or “during”)
    • Fee Simple on Condition Subsequent – “to A, but if …” (or “provided that” or “on condition that”)
    • Fee Tail – “To A and the heirs of her body”
    • Life Estate – “To A for life”

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