Can a life tenant diminish the value of their life estate?

The deed was in my dad’s name while my grandfather had a life estate. Dad passed 7 years ago and my grandfather 3 years later. There is a line in the deed that I don’t understand exactly what it means. It says, “The life tenant shall have and does retain the exclusive possession of the said premises during his lifetime.” Does that mean that he could cut all of the timber off the land and therefore leaving it virtually worthless for future owners? We are in the process of getting the documents transferred over to us.

Asked on June 23, 2014 under Real Estate Law, Kentucky


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

So let me understand here: Grandpa had a life estate and during his tenancy he rendered the land worthless?  A life tenant and a remainderman (Grandpa and Dad) are co owners of the property but not at the same time. In most places a person who holds a life estate (the life tenant), has the right to do anything with the property that a full owner could do during his or her life. But, they are responsible for making sure that the property does not suffer what has been called waste, and I think that this may be the case here. Please ask a lawyer in your area where more questions as to the facts can be asked.  Good luck.

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