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  • Writer's pictureColleen

What are Life Estates?

Have you heard this term before-life estate? There are actually multiple types of life estates, so let's talk about them. Life estates grant one person, the right to use and possess the assigned estate during the lifetime of a designated person.

A few key words to understand here:

Reversioner- This is the owner of the property, and the one granting the life estate. This person may hold onto a reversionary interest in order to reclaim the property as their own at the end of the measuring life,or pass it to a remainderman.

Remainderman- This is a third party who holds a reminder interest in a property after the measuring life has passed. Meaning they receive the estate after the end of the measuring life.

Measuring life- This is the human life which measures the life of the estate. In a conventional estate the life tenant is the measuring life, while n a life estate pur autre vie the measuring life is someone other than the life tenant.

Life tenant- This is the person who has been granted the right to use and occupy the property.





Conventional Estate

This is also known as an ordinary life estate. In this type of life estate the life tenant and the measuring life are the same. Meaning the person using the property can continue to use and possess it until they pass away. 


An example of this would be: You are granny's favorite, but Granny is a bit controlling and she doesn't like your spouse. So, your beloved grandmother has just gone into a nursing home and decided instead of selling her home she would like to give it to you. Granny comes up with what she feels is a great plan that will accomplish her goal of ensuring you get her home now and that her grandchild will get it after, without your spouse ever having a say in it. She grants you an ordinary life estate and names your children as the remaindermen. Effectively cutting your spouse out of the equation.

In this example:

Granny is the owner and the reversioner.

You are the life tenant and the measuring life.

Your child is the remainderman.


Ordinary life Estates may be sold but not willed (obviously because when you die the reversioner or remainderman will receive the estate), but the reversionary and remainderman interests may be sold or willed.



Life Estate Pur Autre Vie

This is a fancy life estate. It's so fancy they named it in another language to make it sound even fancier. This literally translates to "Life Estate for other's life" and that's what it means, but I guess whoever was naming real estate terms decided that it would be way too inclusionary to name a term exactly what it means so everyone understands it and instead just named it in French. Anyway- this type of life estate does exactly what it translates to; it grants the estate to one person for the duration of another person's life.


An example would be: Let's say you're really petty and you have a new investment property, and your mom guilts you a little bit and says that since you're doing so well you should let your sibling (who's down on their luck) have your extra house. So naturally you people please her and say of course and you give your sibling the life estate to the property, but because you're petty you made it a life estate pur autre vie, so now your sibling can only live there as long as Mom is alive, and when she has passes, your sibling will have to relinquish the property and you can finally develop it into a money making property, but since mom is so young and healthy and we assume she's going to live forever you decide that actually when mom passes, your kid will receive the property to develop how they want.

In this example:

You are the owner and the reversioner. 

Your mom is the measuring life.

Your sibling is the life tenant.

Your kid is the remainderman.


Life Estates pur autre vie may be sold or willed, and the remainderman and reversionary interests may be sold or willed as well.

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