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A remainder is a future interest in real estate that is transferred to the transferee or remainderman under property law. The remainderman has the ability to possess the property at the natural end of a previous property formed by the same instrument. As a result, the preceding property must be one that can end naturally, such as when a period of years expires, or a life tenant passes away. A remainder must be included in the same instrument of conveyance (document, such as a deed) that gives the current interest to another person in order for it to be effective. A remainder is distinguished from a "reversion," which gives the title back to the grantor of the property (upon B's death, in the example) or to the grantor's descendants.

In property law, there are two sorts of remainders: contingent remainders and vested remainders.

  • A vested remainder is one that is owned by a specified individual and is subject only to the expiration of the preceding property interests; 
  • A contingent remainder is one for which the holder has not been identified or for which a condition prior must be met.
    • For example, A grants her brother B the property deed for life, and upon B's death, the land deed to C, B's son, or C's offspring if he does not live. C holds a remainder, and his offspring will inherit a "contingent remainder" if C dies before the title passes.

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