Legal Dictionary

estate in land

Definition of estate in land


estate in land (plural estates in land)

  1. (law) An ownership interest in a physical area of land with a set geographic location; real estate; real property.

Related terms

Further reading

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

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 five basic categories:

  1. Freehold estates: rights of ownership
    • fee simple (fee simple absolute)-most rights, least limitations, indefeasible
    • fee tail-inalienable rights of inheritance
    • conditional, Defeasible estate, or determinable fee-voidable ownership
    • life estate-ownership for duration of someone's life
  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 (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.
    • Types of leases:
      • gross lease
      • net lease
      • percentage lease
  3. Statutory estates: created by law
  4. Equitable estates: neither ownership nor possession
    • lien
      • general
      • specific
    • easement
      • easement in gross
      • easement appurtenant
        • ingress
        • egress


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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