real property (land law): an overview
Property signifies dominion or right of use, control, and disposition which one may lawfully exercise over things, objects, or land. One of the basic dividing lines between property is that between real property and personal property. Generally, the term real property refers to land. Land, in its general usage, includes not only the face of the earth but everything of a permanent nature over or under it. This includes structures and minerals.
There are further divisions within the real property classification. The most important are freehold estates, nonfreehold estates, and concurrent estates. (Others are future interests, specialty estates, and incorporeal interests).
- Freehold estates are those in which an individual has ownership for an indefinite period of time. An example of a freehold estate is the "fee simple absolute", which is inheritable and lasts as long as the individual and his heirs wants to keep it. Another example is the "life estate", in which the individual retains possession of the land for the duration of his or her life.
- Nonfreehold estates are property interests of limited duration. They include tenancy for years, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.
- Concurrent estates exist when property is owned or possessed by two or more individuals simultaneously.
For the most part, states have exclusive jurisdiction over the land within their borders, and their law concerning the kind of interests that can be held and how they are created is not subject to federal law, See Real estate transactions.