Forms of Property Ownership: An Important Feature of Your Estate Plan or Business Organization

Updated: Jul 9, 2020


Crops with a farm in the background (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).
Crops with a farm in the background (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

This post should not be construed as legal advice.


Many people often think that an estate plan is just a will, but it is much more than that. Your estate plan will typically include documents and tools that distribute your property according to your wishes at your death. One way to potentially accomplish this is through titling property effectively. Using the right title with property is one way to distribute property on your death.

In the law, title has a specific definition and means the legal evidence of a person’s ownership rights in property (Black’s Law Dictionary). You can own two forms of property: 1) real property and 2) personal property. Real property is land and anything growing on, attached to, or erected on it. For example, your farmland, crops growing on the farmland, and any barns on the farmland would be considered real property. Personal property is a movable or intangible object subject to ownership and not classified as real property. For example, personal property would include farm equipment, tools, or company stock you might own.


Individual Ownership

Tractor in front a red barn (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).
Tractor in front a red barn (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

Typically, individual ownership is the common way property will be owned, but co-ownership forms do exist and will be useful in the estate planning process. Individual ownership is often referred to as fee simple ownership. Fee simple ownership gives the owner complete control over the property, and the owner can dispose (sell, gift, or leave in a will) the property at any time. Fee simple ownership can be limited by the government through taxation, police power, eminent domain, and escheat.