What is usufructo ?

ExpressingCivil LawConcepts

Usufructo, the right to use and enjoy the proceeds of another’s property for a given term, is one of the most common rights in property (derechos reales) present in civil code systems. The beneficiary (usufructuario) of a “usufruct” (as usufructo is known in Louisiana and in other English-speaking civil law jurisdictions) may use and enjoy the “fruits” (proceeds, profit, etc.) from the property, but without damaging or diminishing it. Article 467 of the Spanish Civil Code defines usufructo as the “right to use and reap the proceeds from another’s property with the obligation to preserve its form and substance, unless the instrument granting that right or the law provides otherwise” (derecho a disfrutar los bienes ajenos con la obligación de conservar su forma y sustancia, a no ser que el título de su constitución o la ley autoricen otra cosa). The property owner granting a usufruct is known as a nudo propietario (“naked owner,” similar to the common law “remainderman”).

There is no common law equivalent of usufructo, and if “usufruct” is not readily understood, the term may perhaps be rendered as “beneficial interest” or even “beneficial ownership,” given that “beneficial owner” is “one recognized as the owner of something because use and title belong to that person, even though legal title may belong to someone else” (Black’s Law Dictionary).

With that in mind, here are a few of the basic terms and concepts concerning usufructo with possible English translations:*

  • usufructo—usufruct; beneficial interest; beneficial ownership
  • usufructuario—usufructuary; beneficiary of a usufruct; beneficial owner
  • nudo propietario—naked owner; remainderman
  • usufructo sobre cosas inmuebles o muebles—usufruct/beneficial ownership of real or personal property
  • usufructo de derechos—usufruct/beneficial ownership of rights
  • usufructo simple—usufruct/beneficial ownership granted to a single person
  • usufructo múltiple—usufruct/beneficial ownership granted to two or more persons
  • usufructo simultáneo—simultaneous usufruct/beneficial ownership (enjoyed simultaneously by multiple beneficiaries)
  • usufructo sucesivo—successive usufruct/beneficial ownership (enjoyed by each beneficiary in succession)
  • usufructo propio; usufructo normal; usufructo de cosa no consumible—usufruct/beneficial ownership of non-consumable property (with the obligation to preserve its form and substance)
  • usufructo impropio; usufructo anormal; cuasiusufructo—usufruct/beneficial ownership of consumable property
  • usufructo voluntario—usufruct/beneficial ownership created voluntarily
  • usufructo legal—usufruct/beneficial ownership imposed by operation of law
  • usufructo puro—unconditional usufruct/beneficial ownership
  • usufructo condicional—conditional usufruct/beneficial ownership
  • usufructo a plazo—usufruct/beneficial ownership for a term
  • usufructo universal—usufruct/beneficial ownership of an entire estate
  • usufructo vitalicio—lifetime usufruct/beneficial ownership; usufruct/beneficial ownership for the life of the beneficiary; life estate; lifetime interest
  • usufructo viudal; usufructo del cónyuge viudo—surviving spouse’s usufruct/beneficial ownership; usufruct/beneficial ownership of a surviving spouse
  • usufructo testamentario—usufruct/beneficial ownership created by will
  • usufructo por prescripción—usufruct/beneficial ownership created by adverse possession

Source: Rebecca Jowers. Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés. Madrid: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015, pp. 767-769.

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