What are the legal responsibilities and rights of person living in home with a life estate?

UPDATED: Jul 27, 2011

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What are the legal responsibilities and rights of person living in home with a life estate?

Dad passed in 1990. Left home in life estate to wife.The deed reads “reserving however, A LIFE ESTATE unto XX, with NO POWERS and NO authority during her lifetime to sell, convey and dispose of the property. AND the GRANTOR covenants to warrent specially the property and to execute such further assurances of the property as may be requisite.” When XX was asked to sign stipulation stating she was responsible for upkeep, etc. her lawyer said it was unnecessary. Who is responsible for homes upkeep and insurance coverage?

Asked on July 27, 2011 Maryland


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A "life estate" 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 (during their lifetime), short of selling it.  However, in addition to rights, a life tenant also has responsibilities.  Accordingly, they must pay taxes, insure and generally maintain the property so as not permit it to suffer any damage.

At his point you can consult directly with  a real estate attorney in your area for further advice as to specific state law.

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