Estate, very generally, means all property owned by an individual. For example, the property (including land) owned by a deceased person is referred to as that person's estate. The estate can commence and be subject to legal proceedings, and can be liable to pay debts. The affairs of an estate are governed by an appointed executor (in the case of a WILL) or an administrator (where no will was made). From 1958 to 1972 Parliament levied an estate tax on all property left when people died (seeTAXATION). More narrowly, an estate refers to ownership of an interest in land. As a result of the feudal system imposed on England by William the Conqueror in 1066, all land in Canada's common-law provinces is still owned by the CROWN.
Strictly speaking, an individual does not own land but an estate "in land." The largest and most common estate is a "fee simple absolute" (grant of an estate on land to a person or his heirs absolutely). Another freehold estate (an interest in land of indefinite duration) in land is a "life estate." The owner of the fee simple can divide part of the full estate by creating a life estate in A, who now has a freehold estate determinable by A's own death; if the owner dies before A, the freehold estate reverts to his estate only after A's death. If A conveyed his life estate in the land to B, B would acquire a life estate not measured by B's own life but measured by A's. The owner of a fee simple may also lease the land. The leasehold is an estate in land entitling the tenant to exclusive possession for the term of the lease. Other land interests, eg, easements, licences and restrictive covenants, are not classified as estates (seePROPERTY LAW).
Québec civil law does not have a doctrine of estates. In the modern civil law, ownership of property is absolute and contains all rights of disposition, management and enjoyment.