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HMRC internal manual

Capital Gains Manual

Land: estates in land

An `estate’ in land measures the amount of the owner’s interest in that land. In England and Wales, the main estates are:

  • the fee simple estate;
  • the life estate;
  • the leasehold estate.

The fee simple estate is, for all practical purposes, equivalent to outright ownership. However, the owner is subject to certain restrictions, for example the land must not be used in such a way as to cause nuisance to neighbours and any development is subject to planning controls. In legal documents, this estate will often be referred to as `the estate in fee simple’.

The life estate entitles the holder to occupy and use the land for the whole of his or her life. However, on death no interest in the land passes into the estate of the deceased.

The leasehold estate is that held by a tenant under a lease. That estate will be limited to a particular period by the terms of the lease.

The owner of an estate in land can grant a lesser estate to another person. For example, the owner of an estate in fee simple may grant a leasehold estate to another person. The original owner is then said to have a `reversion’, since the land will revert to that owner at the end of the term of the lease.