Who is responsible for maintenance on a property, the life tenant or remainderman?

Wondering who is responsible for what when if comes to the life estate and such. Have a girlfriend of my grandfather as the “life tenant” and she wants us to pay for all major repairs. Also, can we just give her the home via quit claim deed?

Asked on November 20, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A "life estate" is an ownership interest in a piece of property, like a house or land, that lasts for the life of a person but ends on their death.  Generally 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 their lifetime).  Additionally, in addition to the rights a life tenant also has responsibilities.  Accordingly, they must pay taxes, maintain the property, and not permit it to suffer any damage. In addition to the life tenant there is also someone owns the remainder interest in the property (the "remainderman"). That means that after the life tenant dies, the remaindeman will own full interest in the property. If the remainderman (orremaindermen) decide, they can deed their interest to the life tenant.  At that point, the life tenant becomes vested with an unencumbered "fee simple" title (i.e. they become the full and sole owner of the property).  A quitclaim deed can accomplish this but a general warranty deed would be better.  You can speak directly to a real estate attorney in your area about all of this.

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A "life estate" is an ownership interest in a piece of property, like a house or land, that lasts for the life of a person but ends on their death.  Generally 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 their lifetime).  Additionally, in addition to the rights a life tenant also has responsibilities.  Accordingly, they must pay taxes, maintain the property, and not permit it to suffer any damage.

In addition to the life tenant there is also someone owns the remainder interest in the property (the "remainderman"). That means that after the life tenant dies, the remaindeman will own full interest in the property. If the remainderman (orremaindermen) decide, they can deed their interest to the life tenant.  At that point, the life tenant becomes vested with an unencumbered "fee simple" title (i.e. they become the full and sole owner of the property).  A quitclaim deed can accomplish this but a general warranty deed would be better.  You can speak directly to a real estate attorney in your area about all of this.


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