Can a person with a life estate rent the property to others?

A life estate is an ownership interest in a piece of property that lasts for the life of a named person, but ends on that person's death. In most places, a person who holds a life estate, has the right to do anything with the property. So, yes, a person with a life estate can rent the property to others.

UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

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UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

A life estate is an ownership interest in a piece of property, like a house or a condo, that lasts for the life of a named person, but ends on that person’s death. 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. He or she need not live in the property and use it as his or her home but can rent it out full or part-time or even sell the life interest in the property. The rental or sale agreement can’t be for a time longer than the life of the life tenant, since the life tenant only owns an interest during his or her life.

The holder of the life estate is responsible for paying taxes, maintaining the property in good repair, and not permitting it to suffer any “waste” or other damage. As long as the life tenant fulfils these duties, no other owners have a basis to complain.

With a life estate, someone owns the remainder interest in the property. (This person is sometimes called the remainderman.) That means that after the person with a life estate dies, the owner of the remainder interest will own the full interest in the property. Can remainder owners complain? If the owner of the remainder interest is concerned about the use of the property, for example, that renting might result damage and a loss of value, the owner of the remainder interest can always try and negotiate to buy the life estate and regain full ownership while the life tenant is still alive. If you are in the process of estate planning, you should familiarize yourself with the life tenant obligations and rights.

Case Studies: Renting Property With a Life Estate

Case Study 1: The Johnson Estate

Sarah Johnson, an elderly individual, holds a life estate in a residential property. Due to health concerns, Sarah decides to move into a care facility and realizes that renting out the property would be a beneficial source of income. She seeks legal advice to understand her rights and obligations as a life tenant and the process of renting the property to tenants while retaining her life estate.

Case Study 2: The Miller Family

The Miller family, consisting of a married couple and their adult children, owns a family estate with a life estate arrangement. The parents hold the life estate, while the children have the remainder interest. The parents wish to downsize and move to a smaller property, but they are hesitant to sell the family estate.

Instead, they explore the option of renting the property to generate income. The Millers consult with an attorney to navigate the complexities of renting the property while ensuring the rights of both the life tenants and remaindermen are protected.

Case Study 3: The Martinez Trust

The Martinez Trust establishes a life estate for their daughter, Maria, in a commercial property. Maria, as the life tenant, is interested in leasing the property to a business tenant to generate rental income. However, she has concerns about the responsibilities and liabilities involved in becoming a landlord. Maria seeks legal counsel to understand the legal implications, including lease agreements, maintenance obligations, and potential risks associated with renting the property as a life tenant.

Renting property with a life estate requires a thorough understanding of the rights and obligations of the life tenant, as well as the impact on the remainder interest holders. The arrangement must comply with the terms of the life estate and adhere to local laws and regulations. Seeking guidance from an experienced attorney specializing in property and estate law is crucial to ensure a smooth and legally sound rental arrangement.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Get Legal Help Today

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