What to doif I did a life estate with my brother but I wasn’t aware that I was giving him my home and he really has control?

UPDATED: Nov 15, 2012

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What to doif I did a life estate with my brother but I wasn’t aware that I was giving him my home and he really has control?

I thought it was just until I pay him back for the year taxes. Now he will not get me have control over my home. I want to do a mortgage loan to pay him and other bills. I want my house back. My mother left me the house because I lived with her over 50 years and cared for her. He got the rental house and the monthly rent that goes with it. How can i get out of this life estate?

Asked on November 15, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to speak with a real estate attorney. Generally speaking, a "life estate," as the name implies, is for the life of the estate's recipient--it seems like what you meant to do was to let him live there rent free until the taxes were paid, which is very different. It is possible that if you can show that you and he both did not intend to grant a life estate, that you can void it on the basis of mutual mistake. (If neither party actually intended what resulted, a legal document or transfer of interest can often be set aside since there was no mutual agreement.) Alternatively, if your brother knew exactly what was going on and lied or misrepresented to you about the effects of what you were doing, you may be able to void the estate on the basis of unilateral mistake (your mistake) and fraud.

Failing that, even having given him a life estate, you will have certain rights, such as to mortgage the home, which you can take advantage of; a real estate attorney can advise you as to those, as well as help you see if you can in fact undo this life estate. Good luck.

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