Can I give someone the use of my property for their lifetime and then have it pass to my family?

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Can I give someone the use of my property for their lifetime and then have it pass to my family?

I have a caretaker and I would like to let her reside in my house after my death. I would like her to be able to stay until her death. After her death my nearest relative would get the house. Is this acceptable in ME?

Asked on June 15, 2011 under Estate Planning, Maine

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you can do this. What you are proposing here is what is known as a "life estate". This is a possessory interest in (i.e. right to possess) property that lasts for the life of a person but ends upon their death.  Typically 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 short of conveying any ownership interest in it (this is because they only have a right to possession versus right of ownership).  Therfore, for example, a life tenant can rent out the property but cannot sell it.  Additionally, a life tenant is responsible for paying taxes, maintaining the property, and not permitting it to suffer any other damage.

Note:  In addition to the life tenant there is also someone who 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.

At this point, you need to consult directly with a real estate or estate planning attorney in your area.


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