What is Fee Simple Absolute?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 April 2019
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Fee simple absolute is a type of real estate ownership wherein the owner possesses all of the rights associated with the land. She can use the land, destroy the land, give it to someone else through a will or deed, or take items, such as trees, rocks, or produce, from the land. It is one of the only types of land ownership in which the land owner — with a few exceptions — can do nearly anything she pleases with that land. In the event the land owner were to die without a will, the fee simple absolute title would pass on to the owner’s heirs as a fee simple absolute estate.

Generally, a person who possesses a fee simple absolute estate has complete and total ownership of that parcel of land. She is typically allowed to do with her land whatever she wants. There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, the land owner is still restricted by covenants, zone ordinances, laws, and regulations. So, if she were to own a fee simple absolute estate, she may not be able to use that piece of land to house a horse stable if the area covenants prohibit farm animals on the land. In another example, she may not be allowed to to build a dam and block water from a river that flows across her estate.


Usually, fee simple absolute estates are found in countries that follow common law practices, rather than civil law practices. Typically, the only kind of proprietary rights that are stronger than those granted through a fee simple absolute estate are those that are reserved for governments, called allodial rights or titles. These titles are rare, particularly in common law countries, and date back to feudal times. They do exist in some areas, such as Quebec, Canada, however.

Governmental rights that override those of the homeowner, even if the estate is absolutely owned by the landowner, may also include the governments’ power of eminent domain. This power lets the government purchase an owner’s parcel of land for a set price, but it is typically done without the land owner’s consent. Although this procedure is called eminent domain in the United States, it has other names in other countries. For example, it is called expropriation in Canada and South Africa. In the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand, it is called compulsory purchase.


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