Determinable Fee Estate | Determinable Fee Simple

Determinable Fee Estate

determinable fee estate

Extract from Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms

1.In English law, for ‘determinable fee estate’ see determinable fee simple.
2.(US)A determinable fee estate is an interest in land that is granted to a person and his heirs, but subject to a qualification that the duration of the estate must end upon the occurrence of an event that may, or may not, happen. For example, a fee held for as long as the property is used for a particular purpose. For example, land is granted as long a it is used as a school. Or, as long as the holder maintains a certain status, e.g. remains unmarried. In the latter instance, if the person dies unmarried, the fee is automatically enlarged into a fee simple. “An estate which may last forever is a fee. If it may end on the happening of a merely possible event, it is a determinable, or qualified fee [Italics ours] (First Universalist Society of North Adams v. Boland, 15 Mass 171, 29 NE 524, 15 LRA 231 (1892))”, Reichard v. Chicago, 231 Iowa 563, 1 NW.2d 720, 727 (1942) (Donehue v. Nilges, 364 Mo 705, 266 SW.2d 553, 45 ALR2d 1150 (1954)).

A determinable fee estate

may be distinguished from a life interest as a determinable fee estate may last forever, whereas the latter will come to an end.

It may be distinguished from conditional fee estate as the person entitled to the subsequent estate must re-enter and take possession, whereas the ‘determinable fee estate’ automatically returns to the grantor or the person designated to take the estate if the specified event occurs.

In some jurisdictions, the terms ‘determinable fee’, ‘base fee’ and ‘qualified fee’ are used synonymously for any fee that expires on the occurrence of a specified event (4 Kent’s Comm 9; Lehigh Valley R.R. Co. v. Chapman, 35 NJ 177, 171 A.2d 653, 657 (1961)). Also called an ‘estate on limitation’ or ‘limited fee’.

See also fee simple determinable, possibility of reverter.

determinable fee simple(Eng)

An estate in land that is equivalent to a fee simple, except that it will automatically come to an end upon the occurrence of some act or event that is specified at the time the interest is created, but is an event that is unpredictable and may never happen, e.g. a fee simple granted ‘to A until she marries’ or ‘to B for so long as the land is used as a school’, or as a highway (Highways Act 1980, s. 263; Hopper v Liverpool Corp’n (1943) 88 Sol J 213). A determinable fee is limited by a contingency and is created by such words as ‘for so long as’, ‘while’, or ‘until’ (2 Bl Comm 155). If the words limit or demarcate the utmost duration of the estate, then those words create a determinable fee simple; but if the words are intended merely to defeat the estate before it reaches its boundary then the estate is a conditional fee simple. With a determinable fee simple the limiting circumstances are integral to the duration of the estate, whereas with a conditional fee simple the limiting condition operates to cut short the estate before the end of its normal duration. If the event does not occur the estate may last forever; but if it does occur the estate automatically comes to an end; unlike a conditional fee simple, which must be brought to an end by the exercise of a right of re-entry by the grantor. However, if the event can no longer occur, or is void for uncertainty, the fee simple becomes absolute. If the estate will go back to the original grantor upon the occurrence of the contingency, then the grantor is said to retain the possibility of reverter and the estate is referred to as a ‘determinable fee simple subject to a right of reverter’; as distinguished from a ‘fee simple subject to a condition subsequent’.  (Determinable Fee Estate)

Bibliographical references for Determinable Fee Estate

28 Am.Jur.2d., Estates (Rochester, NY), §§ 26–34.
31 Cor.Jur.Sec., Estates (St. Paul, MN), § 14.

Cheshire and Burn’s Modern Law of Real Property (17th ed. Oxford: 2006), Ch. 17 ‘Determinable Interests and Interests on Condition Subsequent’.
Megarry & Wade: The Law of Real Property (8th ed. London: 2012), §§ 3–062, 3–063 (Determinable Fee Estate).

Terms in bold including determinable fee estate,  conditional fee simple and qualified fee are defined and explained in Real Estate Defined Online.

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Read all about determinable fee estate and other other forms of determinable or conditional fee estates, with multiple cross references and other sources for further research.

(Determinable Fee Estate)

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