Utah Code 57-1-3: Grant of fee simple presumed.
A fee simple title is presumed to be intended to pass by a conveyance of real estate, unless it appears from the conveyance that a lesser estate was intended.
A fee simple defeasible is a conveyance of property that has conditions placed on it. The holder of a fee simple defeasible possesses the property as a fee simple subject to that condition. If the condition is violated or not met, then the property will either go back to the original grantor or a specified third party.
Types of Fee Simple Defeasible Estates
There are three types of fee simple defeasible. The first two confer future property interests in the person granting the property. The other type has the future interest going to a specified third party.
• Fee Simple Determinable: A fee simple determinable automatically ends the interest in the property when a condition is violated or not met. The person granting the property interest retains a “possibility of reverter,” meaning that if the condition is violated, the property will automatically shift back to the grantor without having to take any further action. In order to create a fee simple determinable, the words of conveyance must be durational (e.g., as long as, so long as, during, while, or until). An example of a fee simple determinable would be: A to B so long as the property is used as a school. B would have a fee simple interest in the property so long as the property is used as a school. If, however, the property is no longer used as a school, then the property will automatically go back to A.
• Fee Simple Subject To Condition Subsequent: A fee simple subject to a condition subsequent is very similar to the fee simple determinable except that the violation of the condition would give the original owner the option to take back the property. Thus, the property does not automatically shift to the original owner. Instead, upon violation of the condition, the original owner has the option to reassert a right to the property. This option is called a “right of reentry.” In order to convey a fee simple subject to condition subsequent, the words of conveyance must state that the original owner can retake the property if the condition is violated. An example of a fee simple subject to condition subsequent would be: A to B, but if the property is used for commercial purposes, then A has a right of reentry. Again, B has a fee simple interest in the property so long as the property is not used for commercial purposes. If, however, the property is used for commercial purposes, then A can retake the property.
• Fee Simple Subject To Executory Limitation: A fee simple subject to executory limitation is basically the same as a fee simple defeasible, except that it confers a future property interest in a third party, and not the original owner. In order to create a fee simple subject to executory limitation, the original owner would use either durational or conditional words that establish a condition and a third party to whom the property would go to if the condition is not met or is violated. Like a fee simple determinable, the property shifts automatically and does not require the third party to take any action. The third party interest is called a “remainder.” An example of a fee simple subject to executory limitation would be: A to B only if the property is used as a place of residence; if not used as a place of residence, then to C. Thus, B has a fee simple interest in the property. If, however, the property is used as something other than a place of residence, then the property will automatically shift to C. It is important to note that A, the grantor, no longer has an interest in the property
Understanding Fee Simple vs Leasehold Ownership
• Fee simple ownership: Fee simple ownership is probably the form of ownership most residential real estate buyers are familiar with. Depending on where you are from, you may not know of any other way to own real estate. Fee simple is sometimes called fee simple absolute because it is the most complete form of ownership. A fee simple buyer is given title (ownership) of the property, which includes the land and any improvements to the land in perpetuity. Aside from a few exceptions, no one can legally take that real estate from an owner with fee simple title. The fee simple owner has the right to possess, use the land and dispose of the land as he wishes — sell it, give it away, trade it for other things, lease it to others, or passes it to others upon death.
• Leasehold ownership: A leasehold interest is created when a fee simple land-owner (Lessor) enters into an agreement or contract called a ground lease with a person or entity (Lessee). A Lessee gives compensation to the Lessor for the rights of use and enjoyment of the land much as one buys fee simple rights; however, the leasehold interest differs from the fee simple interest in several important respects. First, the buyer of leasehold real estate does not own the land; they only have a right to use the land for a pre-determined amount of time. Second, if leasehold real estate is transferred to a new owner, use of the land is limited to the remaining years covered by the original lease. At the end of the pre-determined period, the land reverts back to the Lessor, and is called reversion. Depending on the provisions of any surrender clause in the lease, the buildings and other improvements on the land may also revert to the lessor. Finally, the use, maintenance, and alteration of the leased premises are subject to any restrictions contained in the lease.
Important leasehold terms to know:
• Lease Term – The length of the lease period (usually 55 years or more)
• Lease Rent – The amount of rent paid to the Lessor for use of the land
• Fixed Period – The period in which the lease rent amount is fixed
• Renegotiation Date – Date after the fixed period that the lease rent is renegotiated
• Expiration Date – The date that the lease ends
• Reversion – The act of giving back the property to the Lessor
• Surrender – Terms of the reversion
• Leased Fee Interest – An amount a Lessor will accept to convey fee simple ownership
Fee simple is absolute title to land, free of any conditions, limitations, restrictions, or other claims against the title, which one can sell or pass to another by will or inheritance. A fee simple title has a virtually indefinite duration. It is also called fee simple absolute. Today, the law presumes an intention to grant an estate in fee simple unless an indication to impose conditions or limitations is clearly stated. It is most common way real estate is owned in common law countries, and is the most complete ownership interest one can have in real property. Other estates in land include the fee simple conditional, the fee simple defeasible, the fee simple determinable, the fee simple subject to a condition subsequent, the fee simple subject to an executory limitation, and the life estate.
Fee Simple Ownership
When a property deed states that the owner has fee simple ownership, he owns the property above the surface of the land and the mineral properties below the surface of the land. The mineral properties may include oil, gas, mineral rocks or coal. Many deeds do not include fee simple ownership, and thus, there may be several ownership interests connected to the mineral estate of a tract of land. Having fee simple ownership indicates the property owner owns both what’s above and under the surface of the land.
Property Deed Description
A property deed includes language that names the grantor and grantee as well as wordings that describe the grantor or seller’s intent to transfer his ownership interest in a property to the grantee or buyer. The deed also includes a description of the property, such as the address and other identifying information, the property lot and the subdivision.
Transferring the Title
With a warranty deed, the grantor warrants that the property is free and clear of liens and encumbrances and that he has the ownership rights to transfer title to the grantee. The grantee does not make any guarantees with a quit claim deed; the grantee simply receives any ownership interest the grantor has in the property. Typically, if the seller has fee simple ownership in the land, he owns the entire estate to the land. If the grantor transfers his entire ownership interest in the land, the buyer becomes the new fee simple owner. The deed may include words, such as fee simple ownership or fee simple absolute, which indicates that the grantor has absolute ownership interest in the land.
Absolute Ownership Interest
Fee simple ownership is the highest type of property ownership, whereas with a life estate ownership interest, for example, the owner only has lifetime ownership rights to the land. Fee simple owners may use and dispose of the entire land as permitted by law, and they are granted absolute ownership to the land. The property passes to the fee simple owner’s heirs upon death unless the owner has transferred title to the property during his lifetime or by way of a will.
Performing a Title Search
With many land purchase agreements, sellers are not required to disclose who owns the mineral properties connected to the property. Many property owners do not know who actually owns the mineral estate, anyway – the subsurface rights may have been stripped from the deed many generations in the past, or may never have been included with the surface deed. The Recorder’s Office in the county where the property is located is generally the best place to perform a search and discover the chain of title to a particular tract of land. Many counties maintain a record of deeds that trace back to the 1800s.
A concurrent estate describes the various ways in which property can be owned by more than one person at a given time. Three types of concurrent estates are:
• Tenancy in common: Tenancy in common is the most common type of ownership. Ownership is assumed to be a tenancy in common unless stated otherwise. A tenancy in common is a form of ownership of title to real estate by two or more persons. Although they have a unity of possession, they each have separate and distinct titles. In the event that one of the tenants in common dies, his or her title passes not to the other tenant in common, but to his or her estate or heirs.
• Joint tenancy: is a form of ownership in which the tenants own a property equally. If one dies, the other automatically inherits the entire property. This is known as the right of survivorship. Thus somebody cannot will a joint tenancy, and probate is not necessary under a joint tenancy. A person could not take a property as a joint tenant with a corporation, because a corporation cannot die. It would be taken as a tenant in common. If a joint tenant dies owing debts, the surviving joint tenants are free of the unsecured debts. Joint tenants cannot be created by law; therefore the parties who wish to be joint tenants must make it clear in the conveyance document. A joint tenant has the right to sell, mortgage, or transfer their interest without the consent of the other joint tenants. To create joint tenancy there has to be unity of time, title, interest, and possession. That is the most important thing to remember. You may want to say it again: time, title, interest, and possession. You can also remember the acronym TTIP. It is not much of a word, but it worked for me, so hopefully it will work for you too! Joint tenancy would be terminated if any one of those four unities is destroyed. Therefore a person who buys interest of a joint tenant would be a tenant in common with the other joint owners
• Community property: is property acquired by the spouses during marriage. Community property laws vary from state to state. Community property is owned by both regardless of whose name is on the title.
• Separate property is sole ownership, and is property acquired before marriage or property received by gift or inheritance. Separate property can be transferred without the non-owning spouse’s consent or signature.
• A partition is a court action to divide ownership interest if the owners cannot reach an agreement. Partitions can be used by tenants in common or joint tenants to dissolve ownership interest.
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