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

UPDATED: Jun 15, 2011

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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


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

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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