What is a life estate?

And who is a life tenant and who is a remainderman?

Asked on June 3, 2017 under Real Estate Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A "life estate" is the ownership of land for the duration of a person's life. In other words, it is an estate in real property that ends at death at which time ownership of the property reverts back to the original owner (or in some cases it may pass to another person). The owner of a life estate is called a "life tenant". If a person holds property in a life estate, they retains the right to occupy, possess, and enjoy the property. However, they may not sell it or otherwise transfer their interest in it. When they die their interest in the property automatically terminates. It then reverts to the "remainderman" (or "remaindermen") who is the person (or persons) who are entitled to inherit the property upon the termination of the life estate estate.

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