What rights does a person with a life estate have regarding the property?

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What rights does a person with a life estate have regarding the property?

I am a third party on a deed to the farm that I live on and manage. My great grandma passed away and her son has a life interest in this property, however after he passes away the property is then mine completely. What are his rights this land? Is he able to give his daughter part of the land to build a house? On the deed it states that I am the 3rd party.

Asked on May 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What you are referring to here is called a "life estate".  This is a possessory interest in a piece of property, like a house or land, that lasts for the life of a person but ends on their death.  Generally 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 the property (this is because they only have a right to possession versus right of ownership).  A life tenant can rent out the property but cannot sell it.

Note:  A life tenant is responsible for paying taxes, maintaining the property, and not permitting it to suffer any other damage.

In addition to the life tenant there is also someone 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. If the remainderman is concerned about the use of the property, they can try and negotiate to buy out the life estate from the life tenant.


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