Definition for FEE

FEE, n.2 [This word is usually deduced from Sax. feoh, cattle, property, and fee, a reward. This is a mistake. Fee, in land, is a contraction of feud or fief, or from the same source; It. fede, Sp. fe, faith, trust. Fee, a reward, from feoh, is a Teutonic word; but fee, feud, fief, are words wholly unknown to the Teutonic nations, who use, as synonymous with them, the word, which, in English, is loan. This word, fee, in land or an estate in trust, originated among the descendents of the northern conquerors of Italy, but it originated in the south of Europe. See Feud.]

Primarily, a loan of land, an estate in trust, granted by a prince or lord, to be held by the grantee on condition of personal service, or other condition; and if the grantee or tenant failed to perform the conditions, the land reverted to the lord or donor, called the landlord, or lend-lord, the lord of the loan. A fee then is any land or tenement held of a superior on certain conditions. It is synonymous with fief and feud. All the land in England, except the Crown land, is of this kind. Fees are absolute or limited. An absolute fee or fee-simple is land which a man holds to himself and his heirs forever, who are called tenants in fee-simple. Hence in modern times, the term fee or fee-simple denotes an estate of inheritance; and in America, where lands are not generally held of a superior, a fee or fee-simple is an estate in which the owner has the whole property without any condition annexed to the tenure. A limited fee is an estate limited or clogged with certain conditions; as, a qualified or base fee, which ceases with the existence of certain conditions; and a conditional fee, which is limited to particular heirs. Blackstone. Encyc. In the United States, an estate in fee or fee-simple is what is called in English law an allodial estate, an estate held by a person in his own right, and descendible to the heirs in general.

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