Estate (law)

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In common law, an estate is a living or deceased person's net worth. It is the sum of a person's assets the legal rights, interests, and entitlements to property of any kind less all liabilities at a given time. The issue is of special legal significance on a question of bankruptcy and death of the person. (See inheritance.)


Depending on the particular context, the term is also used in reference to an estate in land or of a particular kind of property (such as real estate or personal estate). The term is also used to refer to the sum of a person's assets only.

The equivalent in civil law legal systems is patrimony.


Under United States bankruptcy law, a person's estate consists of all assets or property of any kind available for distribution to creditors. [1] However, some assets are recognized as exempt to allow a person significant resources to restart his or her financial life. In the United States, asset exemptions depend on various factors, including state and federal law. [2] [3] [4] The estate (or assets) of a bankrupt person is administered by a trustee in bankruptcy. The legal position in all common law countries is similar in this respect.

In land law, the term "estate" is a remnant of the English feudal system, which created a complex hierarchy of estates and interests in land. The allodial or fee simple interest is the most complete ownership that one can have of property in the common law system. An estate can be an estate for years, an estate at will, a life estate (extinguishing at the death of the holder), an estate pur autre vie (a life interest for the life of another person) or a fee tail estate (to the heirs of one's body) or some more limited kind of heir (e.g. to heirs male of one's body).

Fee simple estates may be either fee simple absolute or defeasible (i.e. subject to future conditions) like fee simple determinable and fee simple subject to condition subsequent; this is the complex system of future interests (q.v.) which allows concepts of trusts and estates to elide into actuarial science through the use of life contingencies. [5]

Estate in land can also be divided into estates of inheritance and other estates that are not of inheritance. The fee simple estate and the fee tail estate are estates of inheritance; they pass to the owner's heirs by operation of law, either without restrictions (in the case of fee simple), or with restrictions (in the case of fee tail). The estate for years and the life estate are estates not of inheritance; the owner owns nothing after the term of years has passed, and cannot pass on anything to his or her heirs. [6]

Legal estates and interests are called rights "in rem", and said to be "good against the world".

Equitable estates

Superimposed on the legal estate and interests in land, English courts created "equitable interests" over the same legal interests. These obligations are called trusts which will be enforceable in a court. A trustee is the person who holds the legal title to property, while the beneficiary is said to have an equitable interest in the property.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trust (law)</span> Three-party fiduciary relationship

In law, a trust is a relationship in which the holder of property gives it to another person or entity who must keep and use it solely for the benefit of another person or group of persons who are termed as 'beneficiary'. In the English common law tradition, the party who entrusts the property is known as the "settlor", the party to whom the property is entrusted is known as the "trustee", the party for whose benefit the property is entrusted is known as the "beneficiary", and the entrusted property itself is known as the "corpus" or "trust property". A testamentary trust is created by a will and arises after the death of the settlor. An inter vivos trust is created during the settlor's lifetime by a trust instrument. A trust may be revocable or irrevocable; an irrevocable trust can be "broken" (revoked) by a judicial proceeding or by consent of the settlor and the beneficiaries.

Escheat is a common law doctrine that transfers the real property of a person who has died without heirs to the crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in "limbo" without recognized ownership. It originally applied to a number of situations where a legal interest in land was destroyed by operation of law, so that the ownership of the land reverted to the immediately superior feudal lord.

In property law, title is an intangible construct representing a bundle of rights in (to) a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document, such as a deed, that serves as evidence of ownership. Conveyance of the document may be required in order to transfer ownership in the property to another person. Title is distinct from possession, a right that often accompanies ownership but is not necessarily sufficient to prove it. In many cases, possession and title may each be transferred independently of the other. For real property, land registration and recording provide public notice of ownership information.

In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. A "fee simple" is real property held without limit of time under common law, whereas the highest possible form of ownership is a "fee simple absolute," which is without limitations on the land's use.

In English common law, fee tail or entail, or tailzie in Scots law, is a form of trust, established by deed or settlement, that restricts the sale or inheritance of an estate in real property and prevents that property from being sold, devised by will, or otherwise alienated by the tenant-in-possession, and instead causes it to pass automatically, by operation of law, to an heir determined by the settlement deed. The terms fee tail and tailzie are from Medieval Latin feodum talliatum, which means "cut(-short) fee". Fee tail deeds are in contrast to "fee simple" deeds, possessors of which have an unrestricted title to the property, and are empowered to bequeath or dispose of it as they wish. Equivalent legal concepts exist or formerly existed in many other European countries and elsewhere; in Scots law tailzie was codified in an Act of 1685 which in 1896 was given a short title as an Entail Act.

In common law and statutory law, a life estate is the ownership of immovable property for the duration of a person's life. In legal terms, it is an estate in real property that ends at death, when the property rights may revert to the original owner or to another person. The owner of a life estate is called a "life tenant". The person who will take over the rights upon death is said to have a "remainder" interest and is known as a "remainderman".

This aims to be a complete list of the articles on real estate.

An estate in land is, in the law of England and Wales, an interest in real property that is or may become possessory. It is a type of personal property and encompasses land ownership, rental and other arrangements that give people the right to use land. This is distinct from sovereignty over the land, which includes the right to government and taxation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Probate</span> Proving of a will

In common law jurisdictions, probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the state of residence of the deceased at time of death in the absence of a legal will.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bankruptcy in the United States</span> Overview of bankruptcy in the United States of America

In the United States, bankruptcy is largely governed by federal law, commonly referred to as the "Bankruptcy Code" ("Code"). The United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact "uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States". Congress has exercised this authority several times since 1801, including through adoption of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, as amended, codified in Title 11 of the United States Code and the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA).

Seisin denotes the legal possession of a feudal fiefdom or fee, that is to say an estate in land. It was used in the form of "the son and heir of X has obtained seisin of his inheritance", and thus is effectively a term concerned with conveyancing in the feudal era. The person holding such estate is said to be "seized of it", a phrase which commonly appears in inquisitions post mortem. The monarch alone "held" all the land of England by his allodial right and all his subjects were merely his tenants under various contracts of feudal tenure.

Use, as a term in the property law of common law countries, amounts to a recognition of the duty of a person to whom property has been conveyed for certain purposes, to carry out those purposes. In this context "use" is equivalent to "benefit".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Disclaimer of interest</span> Legal concept

In the law of inheritance, wills and trusts, a disclaimer of interest is an attempt by a person to renounce their legal right to benefit from an inheritance or through a trust. "If a trustee disclaims an interest in property that otherwise would have become trust property, the interest does not become trust property."

In finance, a security interest is a legal right granted by a debtor to a creditor over the debtor's property which enables the creditor to have recourse to the property if the debtor defaults in making payment or otherwise performing the secured obligations. One of the most common examples of a security interest is a mortgage: a person borrows money from the bank to buy a house, and they grant a mortgage over the house so that if they default in repaying the loan, the bank can sell the house and apply the proceeds to the outstanding loan.

<span title="Anglo-Norman-language text"><i lang="xno">Cestui que</i></span> Concept in English law regarding beneficiaries

Cestui que is a shortened version of "cestui a que use le feoffment fuit fait", literally, "the person for whose use/benefit the feoffment was made"; in modern terms, it corresponds to a beneficiary. It is a Law French phrase of medieval English invention, which appears in the legal phrases cestui que trust, cestui que use, or cestui que vie. In contemporary English the phrase is also commonly pronounced "setty-kay" or "sesty-kay". According to Roebuck, Cestui que use is pronounced. Cestui que use and cestui que trust are often interchangeable. In some medieval documents it is seen as cestui a que. In formal legal discourse it is often used to refer to the relative novelty of a trust itself, before that English term became acceptable.

A common recovery was a legal proceeding in England that enabled lawyers to convert an entailed estate into absolute ownership, fee simple. This was accomplished through the use of a series of collusive legal procedures, some parts of which were fictional and others unenforceable. It was devised and perfected by lawyers in the second half of the fifteenth century. A 1472 case, known as Taltarum's Case, increased its popularity.

A freehold, in common law jurisdictions such as England and Wales, Australia, Canada and Ireland, is the common mode of ownership of real property, or land, and all immovable structures attached to such land.

A deed of trust refers to a type of legal instrument which is used to create a security interest in real property and real estate. In a deed of trust, a person who wishes to borrow money conveys legal title in real property to a trustee, who holds the property as security for a loan (debt) from the lender to the borrower. The equitable title remains with the borrower. The borrower is referred to as the trustor, while the lender is referred to as the beneficiary.

The Rule in Shelley's Case is a rule of law that may apply to certain future interests in real property and trusts created in common law jurisdictions. It was applied as early as 1366 in The Provost of Beverly's Case but in its present form is derived from Shelley's Case (1581), in which counsel stated the rule as follows:

when the ancestor by any gift or conveyance takes an estate of freehold, and in the same gift or conveyance an estate is limited either mediately or immediately to his heirs in fee simple or in fee tail; that always in such cases, "the heirs" are words of limitation of the estate, not words of purchase.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Real property</span> Legal term; property consisting of land and the buildings on it

In English common law, real property, real estate, immovable property or, solely in the US and Canada, realty, refers to parcels of land and any associated structures which are the property of a person. In order for a structure to be considered part of the real property, it must be integrated with or affixed to the land. Examples include crops, buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, and roads. The term is historic, arising from the now-discontinued form of action, which distinguished between real property disputes and personal property disputes. Personal property, or personalty, was, and continues to be, all property that is not real property.


  1. Bankruptcy Code 11 U.S.C.   § 541.
  2. Fay, Scott; Hurst, Erik; White, Michele J. (June 2002). "The Household Bankruptcy Decision". The American Economic Review. 92 (3): 706–718. doi:10.1257/00028280260136327. JSTOR   3083362.
  3. "Chapter 7 - Bankruptcy Basics". United States Courts. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  4. "11 U.S. Code § 522 - Exemptions". Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  5. "Law Firm". Top Law Firm & Legal Services. Wednesday, 29 January 1992
  6. "עורך דין מקרקעין בנתניה". Wednesday, 16 December 2020