life estate

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Life Estate

Real estate owned only for the duration of one's life, at which time it reverts to the original owner. The owner of a life estate, called a life tenant, has all rights associated with ownership of property except the right to sell the property. Upon the death of the life tenant, the life estate reverts back to the owner, or to a third party designated by the owner. For example, in a will, a farmer may grant ownership of his farm to his children, subject to the life estate of their mother. In this situation, the mother holds the life estate and has the right to live in the farm house for the rest of her life. A life estate may be included in one's gross estate.

life estate

The right to use and enjoy real estate for a limited time measured by someone's life— either the owner of the life estate or someone else. Often used as an estate planning tool so that elderly people can sell their property or give it to relatives,but still retain the right to continue living in it.

Example: Mary Smith, who is 85 years old, has a life estate in Blackacre, but it's for the life of 10-year-old Ashley Brown. As a result, Mary and her heirs will be able to use the property until Ashley dies, hopefully some time in the distant future.