What is a life tenant (or their estate) entitled to for improvements that they make on a life estate?

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What is a life tenant (or their estate) entitled to for improvements that they make on a life estate?

My mother passed away last month. Her Will, which was probated, stated that her husband could live in the house as long as he wished or until his passing, then the house would become the sole property of my sister and I. She built the house with the proceeds from her divorce to my father on land that was given to her by her mother. Her husband did pay for the shop that was built on the land and half of the costs for the fence that surrounds the property. What is her husband entitled to legally when he decides to vacate the property or passes away? If he passes could he will that portion to his children, that were not of their marriage? My sister and I want to know what we are entitled in a community property state.

Asked on August 4, 2014 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  I would go and speak with a lawyer in your area.  WHen you say "he did pay for" do you mean with money considered his separate property or with community property money?  And this was done during the marriage and not as a life tenant? That can be an issue if his children are going to claim that there was a conversion of the separate property to community property during the marriage.  You need to have an attorney explain that in detail to you and apply the law to the facts of your case.  It sounds as if the property was always in your Mother's name alone, correct? If it is determined that it remains her separate property then his beneficiaries could ask for reimbursement as to the improvements made during the community property time.  Please seek help for a complete discussion sooner rather than later. 


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