A future interest held by one person in the real property of another that will take effect upon the expiration of the other property interests created at the same time as the future interest.
The law of real property permits a person who owns real estate to convey all or part of her rights in the property to another person or persons. Legal conveyances of property become more complicated when the person who owns the property, the grantor, gives a present interest (the right to the possession and use of the property) in the property to one person for either life or a set period of time, and also gives a future interest (also called a nonpossessory interest) in the property to another person. The future interest is called a remainder, and the holder of this interest is called the remainderman.
Remainders are subdivided into two principal categories: contingent remainders and vested remainders. A contingent remainder can be created in two different ways. First, it can be a remainder to a person not ascertained at the time the interest is created. For example, Tom owns Blackacre in fee simple, which means he owns it with no ownership limitations. While Bob and Jane are alive, Tom conveys Blackacre to Bob for life, with a remainder to the heirs of Jane. The heirs of Jane are not yet known, so they have a contingent remainder.
A remainder also will be classified as contingent, whether or not the remainderman is ascertained, where the possibility of becoming a present interest is subject not only to the expiration of the preceding property interest but also to some specific event occurring before the expiration of the preceding interest. This event is called a special condition precedent. For example, if Tom owns Blackacre in fee and conveys Blackacre to Bob for life and then to Jane if she marries Bill, then Jane has a contingent remainder in fee, conditioned on the death of Bob and the marriage to Bill.
A vested remainder is a future interest to an ascertained person, with the certainty or possibility of becoming a present interest subject only to the expiration of the preceding property interests. If Tom owns Blackacre in fee simple and conveys Blackacre to Bob for life and to Jane in fee simple, Jane has a vested remainder in fee that becomes a present interest upon the death of Bob. As a remainderman, she simply has to wait for Bob's death before assuming a present interest in Blackacre.
For a remainder to be effective, it must be contained in the same instrument of conveyance (document, such as a deed) that grants the present interest to another person.