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Encyclopedia > Life estate
Property law
Part of the common law series
Acquisition of property
Gift  · Adverse possession  · Deed
Lost, mislaid, and abandoned property
Alienation  · Bailment  · License
Estates in land
Allodial title  · Fee simple
Life estate  · Fee tail  · Future interest
Concurrent estate  · Leasehold estate
Condominiums
Conveyancing of interests in land
Bona fide purchaser  · Torrens title
Estoppel by deed  · Quitclaim deed
Mortgage  · Equitable conversion
Action to quiet title
Limiting control over future use
Restraint on alienation
Rule against perpetuities
Rule in Shelley's Case
Doctrine of worthier title
Nonpossessory interest in land
Easement  · Profit
Covenant running with the land
Equitable servitude
Related topics
Fixtures  · Waste  · Partition
Riparian water rights
Lateral and subjacent support
Assignment  · Nemo dat
Other areas of the common law
Contract law  · Tort law
Wills and trusts
Criminal Law  · Evidence

A life estate, is a term used in common law to describe the ownership of land for the duration of a person's life. In legal terms it is an estate in real property that ends at death. The owner of a life estate is called a "life tenant". Image File history File links Scale_of_justice. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... A gift, in the law of property, has a very specific meaning. ... In common law, adverse possession is the name given to the process by which title to anothers real property is acquired without compensation, by, as the name suggests, holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owners rights for a specified period of time. ... A deed is a legal instrument used to grant a right. ... {{PropertyLaw}} In the [[common law]] of [[property]], personal belongings that have left the possession of their rightful owners without having directly entered the possession of another person are deemed to be lost, mislaid, or abandoned, depending on the circumstances under which they were found by the next party to come... Alienation, in property law, is the capacity for a piece of property or a property right to be sold or otherwise transferred from one party to another. ... Bailment describes a legal relationship where physical possession of personal property (chattels) is transferred from one person (the bailor) to another person (the bailee) who subsequently holds possession of the property. ... It has been suggested that Licensing (strategic alliance) be merged into this article or section. ... Estate is a term used in the common law. ... Allodial title is a concept in some systems of property law. ... Fee simple, also known as fee simple absolute or allodial, is a term of art in common law. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... In property law and real estate, a future interest - is an interest that accompanies a defeasible estate. ... A concurrent estate or co-tenancy is a concept in property law, particularly derived from the common law of real property, which describes the various ways in which property can be owned by more than one person at a given time. ... A leasehold estate is an ownership interest in land in which a lessee or a tenant holds real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord. ... This article refers to a form of housing. ... Conveyancing is the act of transferring the legal title in a property from one person to another. ... A bona fide purchaser (BFP)—or bona fide purchaser for value without notice (BFPFVWN)—in the law of real property, is an innocent party who purchases property for value, without notice of any other partys claim to the title of that property. ... Torrens title is a system of land title where a register of land holdings maintained by the state guarantees indefeasible title to those included in the register. ... Estoppel by deed is a doctrine in the law of real property that arises where a party conveys title to land that he does not own to a bona fide purchaser, and then acquires title to that land. ... A quitclaim deed is a term used in property law to describe a document by which a person disclaims any interest the grantor might have in a piece of real property, and passes that claim to another person (the grantee). ... This article is about the legal mechanism used to secure property in favor of a creditor. ... Equitable conversion is a doctrine of the law of real property under which a purchaser of real property becomes the equitable owner of title to the property at the time he/she signs a contract binding him/her to purchase the land at a later date. ... This page is a candidate to be copied to Wiktionary. ... In property law and real estate, a future interest - is an interest that accompanies a defeasible estate. ... A restraint on alienation, in the law of real property, is a clause used in the conveyance of real property that seeks to prohibit the recipient from selling or otherwise transferring his interest in the property. ... The rule against perpetuities is a rule in property law which prohibits a contingent grant or will from vesting outside a certain period of time. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... In the common law of England, the doctrine of worthier title was a legal doctrine that preferred taking title to real estate by descent over taking title by devise or by purchase. ... A nonpossessory interest in land is a term of the law of property to describe any of a category of rights held by one person to use land that is in the possession of another. ... An easement is the right to do something or the right to prevent something over the real property of another. ... A profit, in the law of real estate, is a nonpossessory interest in land similar to the better-known easement, which gives the holder the right to take natural resources such as petroleum, minerals, timber, and wild game from the land of another. ... A covenant running with the land, is a real covenant, in the law of real property. ... An equitable servitude is a term used in the law of real property to describe a nonpossessory interest in land that operates much like a covenant running with the land, requiring the landowner to maintain certain practices with respect to the land (e. ... In the law of real property, fixtures are anything that would otherwise be a chattel that have, by reason of incorporation or affixation, become permanently attached to the real property. ... Waste is a term used in the law of real property to describe a cause of action that can be brought in court to address a change in condition of real property brought about by a current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. ... A partition is a term used in the law of real property to describe the court-ordered division of a concurrent estate into separate portions representing the proportionate interests of the tenants. ... Riparian water rights is a system of allocating water among the property owners who abut its source. ... Lateral and subjacent support, in the law of property, describes the right a landowner has to have that land physically supported in its natural state by both adjoining land and underground structures. ... An assignment is a term used with similar meanings in the law of contracts and in the law of real estate. ... Nemo dat quod non habet, literally meaning no one [can] give what they dont have is a legal rule, sometimes called the nemo dat rule that states that the purchase of a possession from someone who has no ownership right to it also denies the purchaser any ownership title. ... A contract is any promise or set of promises made by one party to another for the breach of which the law provides a remedy. ... In the common law, a tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. ... This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The law of trusts and estates is generally considered the body of law which governs the management of personal affairs and the disposition of property of an individual in anticipation and the event of such persons incapacity or death, also known as the law of successions in civil law. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Estate is a term used in the common law. ... Real property is a legal term encompassing real estate and ownership interests in real estate (immovable property). ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


Although the ownership of a life estate is technically temporary because it ends at a person's death (a tenancy), it is treated as complete ownership (fee simple) for the duration of the person's life, subject to limitations. Because a life estate ceases to exist upon death, the owner of the life estate cannot leave it to heirs, and the life estate cannot be inherited. A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. ... Fee simple, also known as fee simple absolute or allodial, is a term of art in common law. ...


An owner of a life estate cannot also give a greater interest than is owned. That is, a life estate owner cannot give complete and indefinite ownership (fee simple) to another person because ownership in the property ends when the life tenant dies. If, however, the original grantee has sold his life estate [ex. from A to B], B's interest lasts until A dies, allowing B to bequest his interest, sell the land, etc. until that point. Once A dies, however, whoever possesses the land loses it (with the land likely reverting back to its original grantor). This is a life estate "pur autre vie," or the life of another. Such a life estate can also be conveyed originally, such as "to A until B dies." Fee simple, also known as fee simple absolute or allodial, is a term of art in common law. ...


Another limitation on a life estate is the doctrine of waste, which prohibits life tenants from damaging or devaluing the land, as their ownership is technically only temporary. Waste is a term used in the law of real property to describe a cause of action that can be brought in court to address a change in condition of real property brought about by a current tenant that damages or destroys the value of that property. ...


Uses of a life estate

In the United States, a life estate is typically used as an estate planning tool. The use of a life estate can avoid probate and ensure an intended heir will receive title to real property. For example, A may own a home and desire that B inherit the home after A's death. A can effecuate that desire by transferring title to the home to B and retaining a life estate in the home. A keeps a life estate interest and B receives a vested fee simple remainder interest. As soon as A dies, the life estate interest merges with B's remainder interest and B has a fee simple title. This avoids the use of a will and the probate process. The danger to A though, is that the grant to B is irrevocable. "Beneficiary deeds" have been statutorily created in some states to address this issue.


It is less well known that the intestacy laws of certain American states, such as Arkansas, Delaware, and Rhode Island, still limit the surviving spouse's rights to the deceased spouse's real estate to a life estate. (As shown by the programs linked to the state names.)


Duration of a life estate

Life estates are measured either by the life of the property recipient, or by the life of some other person; these latter are called life estates pur autre vie, (French for "for the life of another"). A life estate pur autre vie is most commonly created in one of two circumstances.

  • First, when the owner of property conveys his interest in that property to another person, for the life of a third person. For example if Joey conveys land to Rachel during the life of Monica, then Rachel owns the land for as long as Monica lives; if Rachel dies before Monica, Rachel's heirs will inherit the land, and will continue to own it for as long as Monica lives.
  • Second, if Joey conveys land to Monica for life, Monica can then sell the life estate to Rachel. Again, Rachel and Rachel's heirs will own the land for as long as Monica lives.
  • In either scenario, once Monica dies, the ownership of the land will revert to Joey. If Joey has died, ownership will revert to Joey's heirs. The right to succeed to ownership of the property upon the expiration of the life estate is called a remainder.

Validity of a life estate

The early common law did not recognize a life estate in personal property, but such interests were cognizable in equity. Thus, although life estates in real estate are still created today, the life estate is more commonly used in trust instruments, typically in an attempt to minimize the effect of the inheritance tax or other taxes on transfers of wealth. The Court of Chancery, London, early 19th century This article is about the concept of equity in the jurisprudence of common law countries. ... In common law legal systems, a trust is a contractual relationship in which a person or entity (the trustee) has legal title to certain property (the trust property or trust corpus), but is bound by a fiduciary duty to exercise that legal control for the benefit of one or more... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ...


The law of England and Wales no longer recognises the life estate at law in relation to land, instead the holder of legal title to the land (whether the freehold fee simple or a lease) will hold that land on trust first for the life tenant and then for the remainderman.


 
 

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