Life Estate Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Life Estate, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Life Estate?

(n) Life Estate is the right to occupy, possess or otherwise use a property during one’s life time. The right in the property exists so as the right holder is alive. After his or her death it reverts to the title holder or the survivor mentioned in the deed of bestowing life estate.

History and Meaning of Life Estate

A life estate is a type of legal arrangement in which an individual has the right to use and enjoy a piece of property during their lifetime, but they do not own it outright. The ownership of the property reverts back to someone else after the life tenant dies. Life estates have been used for many centuries as a way for property owners to provide for their loved ones while retaining ownership of their assets.

Examples of Life Estate

  1. A husband may create a life estate for his wife, allowing her to live in their home for the rest of her life after he dies.
  2. A parent may create a life estate for their child, allowing them to use a vacation home or other property for the rest of their life.
  3. An individual may purchase a life estate in a piece of property, allowing them to use and enjoy it during their lifetime without actually owning it.

Legal Terms Similar to Life Estate

  1. Remainder interest - A legal term that refers to the future interest in a piece of property that is transferred to someone else after a life estate ends.
  2. Fee simple - A type of ownership that gives the owner complete and total control over the property, both during their life and after their death.
  3. Trust - A legal arrangement in which a person places their assets in the care of a trustee, who manages them for the benefit of someone else.