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All About Life Estate

What Is a Life Estate?

The term “life estate” refers to a piece of property typically a home, that an individual owns, and can be able to use throughout their life. The person who is referred to as the life tenant is the owner of the property with another individual or people, who automatically be given ownership of the house following the death of the tenant.

Within the U.S., life estates are typically set up by homeowners to ensure an heir inherits the home while staying clear of probate, the legal procedure of documenting that a will has been made.

Understanding a Life Estate

Life estates are a type of shared homeownership. The ownership is shared by the life tenant and the known as a “remainderman.” The name implies that the”remainderman” has an ownership interest, but cannot be able to take possession of the property until the death of the tenant who is living there. The life tenant can remain in the home but is not able to purchase it or loan it without the consent of the remaining man.

Life estates are created through a deed that stipulates it is the occupant(s) of the home is entitled to enjoy it for the rest of their lives. The deed will also identify the person who receives the property following the demise of the tenant who was the life tenant.

In the U.S., the creation of the life estate is generally an aspect of the estate planning process. But, depending on the nation it may serve different objectives. For instance, in France, the home buyer can negotiate a life tenancy agreement in conjunction with an old homeowner, and provide the homeowner with an annual income in exchange in exchange for being designated as”the designated freshman. This is reverse mortgages for private use, a method that dates back to around the year 9th Century.

In a life estate, an estate deed is a document that allows owners the option to transfer ownership of the property without putting it in a will, as part of the assets of a person. As a result, the property does not have to go through probate is the legal process that is used to verify wills. If the estate is extremely large or complicated, the process of probate is costly and complex.

In the event of a life estate the interest of the life tenant in the property expires at the time of death, and ownership will be transferred to the freshman. The life tenant becomes the property’s owner for the duration of their life and is accountable for the costs associated with property taxes as well as insurance and maintenance. Furthermore, the life tenant keeps any tax benefits from homeownership.

Special Considerations

Creating a Life Estate

Although a life estate is typically designed to simplify the transfer of ownership to the next generation, it could be used to create an income source.

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Life estates can be set up to ensure a steady income for an individual rather than a lump sum inheritance. In this instance, the estate is the amount of money put into income-producing instruments like bonds and leases for oil and gas and REITs, real estate investments trusts (REITs), and similar investments. The life tenant earns income for the rest of their lives but is not able to access the principal.

Whatever kind of property is included with a living estate the life tenant can’t take it off the market or make loans from it, without permission from the remaining person. If both parties are in agreement with selling the property, then the remainderman can claim a percentage of the proceeds on a set amount that is based on the age of the life tenant, and also the current rates of interest. In general, the more senior the life tenant, the more the portion the remainderman could expect to be entitled to.

In the case of a life estate the home is no longer a property of the estate of the person. It is protected from lawsuits, such as Medicaid estate recovery.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Life Estates

Life estates come with advantages and drawbacks. One of the most significant advantages of a life estate is the ease of the transfer of property to the current generation. If the property is included in the will of the homeowner, probate may hinder the process of transfer. If it is an estate with life the transfer can be made automatically by filing an official death certificate.

Another benefit is that the house is no anymore an asset in the trust. It is protected from legal action against the estate, which includes “Medicaid estate recovery.” If a person is on Medicaid and is a beneficiary of services provided by the state, it could sue the estate to recover the expenses.

In addition to the legal advantages in addition to tax benefits, there are also potential advantages:

  • The life tenant could be eligible for tax breaks for homesteads or seniors as a homeowner.
  • The remaining person could receive a significant tax break on capital gains when and if the home is sold (since its tax assessment is based on its value at the date of the life tenant’s death, not the time it was bought through the living tenant).

But, there’s an opportunity for legal disadvantages also: the life tenant could be affected by any legal issues that a restorative man faces. For instance, if a parent and child have set up a life estate in which the child is prosecuted due to tax evasion or other fees, the lien may be placed against the home of the parent.

In any event, establishing the life estate is a significant and legally obligatory choice for the owner of an estate. The homeowner gives the possibility of mortgaging or selling the property (unless the remaining party accepts) and makes an irrevocable decision as to who will be the successor to the home.

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  • Facilitates the transfer of an existing home for the next generation
  • Secures the home from debtors of the deceased
  • Homeowners who are older can still enjoy the advantages of owning a home


  • This makes the owner liable to lawsuits for debt against the remainderman
  • The plan can’t be easily reversed in the event that the plans of the owner or circumstances change.
  • Owners are not able to mortgage or sell property

Life Estate vs. Irrevocable Trust

As with a life estate, it is similar to a life estate, but the irrevocable trust is usually a tool to plan your estate. Like an estate of life, the irrevocable trust is used to remove all assets that are owned by the trust grantor. In particular, the grantor surrenders the rights to certain assets and income and transfers the assets to a trust. The assets can be investments, cash as well as life insurance. The trust’s beneficiaries could be a spouse, the children of the grantor, or an organization that is charitable.

Furthermore, an estate that is a life estate is “irrevocable.” When a life estate deed is in place the life tenant is unable to modify the contract without permission from the remaining person.

Contrary to a life estate the trust doesn’t provide an income, such as an apartment for the trust grantor.

A trust with irrevocability has its uses, but. Trusts can decrease the wealth of a person on paper, while also transferring the wealth to relatives. It also eliminates certain assets from the estate, thus removing them from probate.

Trusts can be an effective strategy for any professional susceptible to litigation, such as a doctor, as it shields some belongings by transferring their assets to family members through the trust.

Example of a Life Estate

A life estate arrangement is generally used as an element in estate planning. Couples who are older might think about the possibility of a life estate agreement as an alternative to making them the beneficiary of their will. A life estate arrangement grants the beneficiary the right to remain at their residence for the remainder of their lives. If they both die the adult child or children automatically take ownership of the property.

A widowed homeowner who can no longer live on their own could sign a life estate contract that includes an adult child as the remaining person. The child and parent share ownership of the house, but the parent still has rights for life to use the house. Both parties are assured that the property will be transferred to the child with no delay, or disruption.

Life Estate FAQs

Can Someone With a Life Estate Sell the Property?

A life tenant is not allowed to transfer the home or get the mortgage on it without the permission of the remaining man. In the reverse situation, the remainderman is not able to make a mortgage or sale of an asset during the life of the tenant who is living.

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How Does a Life Estate Deed Work?

The life tenant is the one who has most of the obligations and rights as homeowners. The life tenant is able to reside in the house or lease it out and is responsible for paying taxes on the insurance, maintenance, and expenses. The tax benefits associated with homeownership will be shared with the life tenant, too.

The life tenant will not have the legal right to sell the property or obtain the mortgage for it without the approval of the remainderman. The remainderman is a joint owner in the home but does not have legal rights to live there or make use of it until it is the time of death for the living tenant. After a death certificate has been filed the life tenant may acquire the property.

What Are the Advantages of a Life Estate?

Life estates are a tool for estate planning. The main reason behind establishing it is to make sure that the home is handed over to the right person as soon as the homeowner’s death and to avoid the hassle of a probate court process.

It also effectively takes it from the estate. It isn’t considered to be an estate asset, so its value is not a factor in a lawsuit for damages against an estate. This is especially relevant to Medicaid beneficiaries whose heirs could be affected by Medicaid estate recovery procedures.

What Happens to a Life Estate After a Person Dies?

The ownership of the property will be instantly transferred to the individual who is named as the remainderman in the deed of the life estate.

What Are the Rights of a Remainderman?

The property that is owned by the co-owner cannot be mortgaged or sold without the consent of the freshman.

The remaining tenant is entitled to remain in the home either sell it or even mortgage it, only upon when the living tenant.

The life tenant is responsible for the ownership responsibilities which include all costs and is accountable for the cost of maintenance and taxes.

In Conclusion

Making a life estate an acceptable method for homeowners to be certain that their home will end up in the hands of the individual they wish to pass on the estate with a minimal amount of legal hassle or delays.

But the life estate must only be created in the knowledge that it isn’t reversible without difficulty. The homeowner gives up the option to dispose of the property or obtain a mortgage with it without permission from the remaining person.

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