Who is responsible to pay for repairs to a life estate?

UPDATED: May 27, 2012

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Who is responsible to pay for repairs to a life estate?

My grandfather left his house to his 2nd wife in a life estate, with the remaindermen being his 3 grandchildren. After 15 years, the stepgrandmother wants to “sign over” the house to the remaindermen. Taxes have been paid. The big concern is the condition of the house. One grandchild recently received a bill from an HVAC company for maintenance done to the property. Who’s responsible? There are tenants (not stepgrandmother) living in the home. Can a lien be placed on the property by repairmen?

Asked on May 27, 2012 under Estate Planning, Kansas


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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Essentially, a life tenant has the same rights and responsibilites as an owner, with the obvious exception of being able to convey the property. Therefore, it is your step-grandmother's responsibility to pay for any repair and/or maintenance expenses. If she fails to do so, in such as situation as you have described here, a "mechanic's" lien can in fact be placed against the property. At this point, if the your step-grandmother will not/cannot pay the HVAC bill then the beneficiaries should consider doing so now. If a lien is placed on the property, then the costs of getting it removed, etc. will only increase.

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