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In common law jurisdictions (e.g. England and Wales, United States, Australia, Canada and Ireland) a freehold is the common ownership of real property, or land, and all immovable structures attached to such land, as opposed to a leasehold in which the property reverts to the owner of the land after the lease period has expired. Immovable property includes land and all that naturally goes with it, such as buildings, trees or underground resources, but not such things as vehicles or livestock.
For an estate to be a freehold it must possess two qualities: immobility (property must be land or some interest issuing out of or annexed to land), and ownership of it must be of an indeterminate duration. If the time of ownership can be fixed and determined, it cannot be a freehold.
Before the Law of Property Act 1925, a freehold estate transferable to the owner's "heirs and assigns" (that is, successors by inheritance, or purchase [including gift], respectively), was a fee simple estate. When transfer, by inheritance or otherwise, was limited to lineal descendants ("heirs of the body" or "heirs of the blood") of the first person to whom the estate was given, it was a fee tail estate. There were also freehold estates not of inheritance, such as an estate for life.
- Strictly speaking, all land in England, Wales, and Scotland belongs to the Crown. Freehold is ownership of an estate in land rather than the land itself. This distinction dates back to the Middle Ages and makes relatively little difference nowadays, so legal authorities often do not bother to distinguish between ownership of the land and ownership of an estate.
- Roberts, Chris (2006). Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme. Waterville, Me.: Thorndike Press. ISBN 0-7862-8517-6.