contingent ownership

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Contingent ownership refers to ownership that the owner can only enjoy if a certain condition occurs. 

  • For example, Bill writes in his will that he leaves his "interest in The Centerville Café to Sarah, if she is still living in Centerville." This conveyance promises Sarah ownership over The Centerville Café only if she is living in Centerville at the time when Bill dies. If she is not, she stands to lose her interest. Therefore, Sarah holds a contingent interest in The Centerville Café. 

Contingent means that an event may or may not occur in the future, depending on the fulfillment of an uncertain condition, and that the event will only become effective when this condition occurs. Therefore, in this type of ownership, the owner does not have full rights to the property. It is a type of property ownership that takes effect only upon a specific event or circumstance. It is also referred to as conditional ownership.

Related terms: 

  • condition subsequent
  • contingency
  • possessory estate

[Last updated in August of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]