What is a Freehold?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 February 2020
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Also known as a life estate or a fee simple, a freehold is an estate in which the right to occupy and use the property is granted for an undetermined period of time. In some cases, the terms of the agreement make it possible for an individual to have full use of the estate during his or her lifetime, as long as the provisions of the freehold agreement are observed. While the conditions that apply with a given freehold may vary, there are a couple of characteristics that are typical of this type of arrangement. The fee simple must either be real estate or be some type of interest that is directly connected with real estate in some manner, and the contract must define the right to hold possession of the land in terms of events rather than a specific duration.

With a freehold arrangement, a loved one may be granted full use and possession of land by a benefactor, with the agreement allowing that loved one to remain in control of the property as long as certain circumstances prevail. For example, the beneficiary may be allowed to retain use of the property for as long as he or she chooses to remain a resident of the local area. In the event that the beneficiary chooses to move to another country, the right of usage is considered abandoned and possession of the estate will be granted to another individual.


In some nations, a freehold is also known as a frank tenement. This term came into usage in centuries past, and was sometimes employed in areas where feudal law allowed for the orderly transmission of property from father to son, with provisions regarding the conduct of the son in terms of holding onto the property. The provisions may call for the son to refrain from marrying a certain young lady or marrying any female connected with a family that is considered undesirable. As long as the son chose a mate from any other family, access to the freehold was not endangered.

The freehold concept differs from other mechanisms used to transfer the right of use of specific properties. Unlike these other methods, the freehold does not set a time limit on the usage. This is in contrast to land grants in which individuals are allowed to hold the property for a set time frame, like 50 years. With a life estate, it is more common for an individual to be granted use up to the point of death. Some fee simple arrangements allow the property to remain in possession of the original beneficiary’s descendants, as long as they in turn abide by the provisions found in the original agreement.


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