Usufruct is the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from property that belongs to another person, as long as the property is not damaged. In many legal usufruct systems of property, such as the traditional ejido system in Mexico, individuals or groups may only acquire the usufruct of the property, not legal land ownership.

Usufruct originates from civil law, where it is a real right of limited duration on the property of another. The holder of an usufruct, known as the usufructuary, has the right to use and enjoy the property, as well as the right to receive profits from the fruits of the property. The English word "usufruct" derives from the Latin roots "usus" and "fructus", referring to the rights of use and fruit, respectively.

In Roman Law, usufruct was a type of servitude or "ius in re aliena", a right in another's property. The usufructuary never had possession of this property (on the basis that if he possessed at all, he did so through the owner), but he did have an "in rem" right to the property itself. Unlike the owner, he did not have the right of alienation ("abusus"), but he could sell or let his enjoyment of the usufruct. Despite the usufructuary's lack of possession a modified form of the possessory interdicts was available to him.

The term "fruits" should be understood to mean any replenishable commodity on the property, including (among others) actual fruits, livestock and even rental payments derived from the property. These may be divided into civil and natural fruits, the latter of which, in Roman law, included slaves and livestock.

In tribal cultures usufruct means the land is owned in common by the tribe, but families and individuals have the right to use certain plots of land. Most Indian tribes owned things like land as a group and not as individuals. The family never owned the land, they just farmed it. This is called usufruct land ownership. A person must make (more or less) continuous use of the item or else he loses ownership rights. This is usually referred to as "possession property" or "usufruct." Thus, in this usufruct system, absentee ownership is illegitimate.

The oldest example of usufruct is found in the Law of Moses, which directed property owners not to harvest the edges of their fields, and reserved the gleanings for the poor [Leviticus 19:19, 23:22] .

An example of usufruct in modern law, is that eating fruit from an orchard or field is not considered theft unless the taker puts it in a container and carries it off the property.

ee also

*perpetual usufruct
*Cestui que

*Rights of way in the United Kingdom
*right-of-way (railroad)


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  • usufruct — usu·fruct / yü zə ˌfrəkt, sə / n [Latin ususfructus from usus et fructus, literally, use and enjoyment]: the right to the use and enjoyment of another s property and its profits a usufruct in the crops of the estate; esp in the civil law of… …   Law dictionary

  • usufruct — u‧su‧fruct [ˈjuːzjuːfrʌkt] noun [uncountable] LAW the legal right to use a person s property in whatever way you like during your life, on condition that you return it to its owner in a reasonable condition: • usufruct rights over agricultural… …   Financial and business terms

  • Usufruct — U su*fruct (?; 277), n. [L. usufructus, ususfructus, usus et fructus; usus use + fructus fruit.] (Law) The right of using and enjoying the profits of an estate or other thing belonging to another, without impairing the substance. Burrill. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • usufruct — (n.) right to the use and profits of the property of another without damaging it, 1610s (implied in usufructuary), from L.L. usufructus, in full usus et fructus use and enjoyment, from L. usus a use (see USE (Cf. use) (n.)) + fructus enjoyment,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • usufruct — [yo͞o′zyoo frukt΄, yo͞o′syoofrukt΄] n. [LL usufructus < L ususfructus < usus, a USE + fructus, enjoyment, FRUIT] Rom. Law Civil Law the right to use the property of another for a period of time with the obligation to return it or leave it… …   English World dictionary

  • usufruct — /yooh zoo frukt , soo , yoohz yoo , yoohs /, n. Roman and Civil Law. the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed …   Universalium

  • usufruct — /yuwz(y)afrakt/ In the civil law, a real right of limited duration on the property of another. The features of the right vary with the nature of the things subject to it as consumables or nonconsumables. Civ. Code La. art. 535. The right of using …   Black's law dictionary

  • Usufruct — A legal term describing a situation wherein a person or company has a temporary right to use and derive income from someone else s property (provided that it isn t damaged). Usufruct is recognized only in a few jurisdictions in North America …   Investment dictionary

  • Usufruct — Modern term for the use and enjoyment of the income from a piece land with the proviso that it should not be damaged or diminished. Thus land given as a loan conveyed the usufruct, not the land itself. [< Lat. usus = use + fructus = fruit;… …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • usufruct — n. & v. n. (in Roman and Scots law) the right of enjoying the use and advantages of another s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance. hold in usufruct. Derivatives: usufructuary adj. & n. Etymology: med.L usufructus f.… …   Useful english dictionary

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