A freehold interest is defined as ownership of real property (i.e. a house) that is either permanent or for an undetermined duration of time. There are three general types of freehold estates: fee simple, fee tail, and life estate. Furthermore, there are four specific types within the “fee simple” category.
Fee Simple Absolute
A fee simple absolute is the most extensive interest in real property. It is limited completely to the individual and his or her heirs. A fee simple absolute is not subject to any limitations or conditions.
Example: “O gives property to A and his heirs.”
Fee Simple Determinable
A fee simple determinable is an interest that continues until the occurrence of a specified event. When such an event occurs, the estate will terminate automatically, at which time the ownership reverts to the original owner or his or her heirs.
Example: “O gives property to A, as long as it is used for residential purposes.”
Fee Simple Subject to a Condition Subsequent
This type of interest terminates only upon the exercise of the power of termination for the violation of a particular condition. Unlike a fee simple determinable, a fee simple subject to condition continues even after the occurrence of the event until the grantor chooses to terminate the estate.
Example: “O gives property to A, but if alcohol is served, then O can take back.”
Fee Simple Subject to an Executory Limitation
This type of interest ends when a specific condition is met and then transfers to a third party.
Example: “O gives property to A for life, but if A drinks, then to B.”
A fee tail is an interest subject to limitations concerning who may inherit the property, which is ordinarily created by a deed or a will.
Example: “O gives property to A, and the heirs of his body.”
A life estate is an interest in real property that does not amount to ownership, because it is limited by a term of life.
Example: “O gives property to A for life.”
**Washington State Supreme Court case – Rubenser v. Felice 58 Wn.2d 862
A Washington court defined a freehold estate in this way: “when a person takes an estate of freehold, legally or equitably, under a deed, will, or other writing… to his heirs or heirs of his body, as a class of persons to take in succession from generation to generation, the limitation to the heirs entitles the ancestor to the whole estate.