life estate

Kimberly Milousis

No one wants to think about what will happen to their loved ones when they die, but most people want their loved ones to be happy. Squabbles over a will and finances can tear a family apart. A life estate is one financial tool that can take some of the stress away from your family.

Could a Life Estate Be More Legally Sound Than a Will?

A life estate is a way of deeding property so that two people own the property at once. One owner is called the life tenant. The life tenant has the right to live on the property until he or she dies, and has the responsibility to keep the property in working order.

The second owner, called the remainderman, will automatically be the only owner of the property immediately after the life tenant dies.

Better Than a Will

Life estates are in many ways more effective than wills because the transfer of ownership of the property happens immediately and legally after the death of the life tenant. No wills need to be found and deciphered. There’s no need to go through probate court, a lengthy legal process where a deceased person’s assets are divided and debts settled.

A person can rest assured that their property (life estates can be done on houses or land) will go to the right person no matter what. There’s just one thing that can get in the way.

One Little Snag

Sometimes, the remainderman unexpectedly dies before the life tenant. If that happens, the life tenant still has rights to the property for the length of his or her life. After the death of the life tenant, the property will automatically be owned by the legal heirs of the remainderman.

A successful life estate works when the remainderman and life tenant are trustworthy.