Life Tenant Definition and Legal Meaning
On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Life Tenant, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.
What is Life Tenant?
Someone who possesses a property for life.
History and Meaning of Life Tenant
A life tenant is an individual who has the right to occupy and use a property for the duration of their lifetime but does not own the fee simple interest in the property. A life tenant holds a life estate in the property, meaning that their right to use the property will end upon their death, at which time the property will pass to the designated remainderman. This arrangement is typically established through a legal agreement, such as a will or trust, and serves to provide a form of security for the life tenant while ensuring that the property has a designated beneficiary.
The concept of a life tenant dates back to feudal law, where a lord would grant the use of his land to a tenant for the duration of their life in exchange for some form of service, such as military service or agricultural production. Over time, this arrangement evolved into a legal instrument for transferring property while ensuring that the original owner or their designated beneficiary retained some degree of control over the use of the property.
Examples of Life Tenant
- An individual inherits a family estate with the stipulation that they may use and occupy the property for the duration of their life but may not sell or otherwise transfer the property. Upon their death, the property will be transferred to a designated remainderman.
- A couple purchases a vacation home and designates themselves as life tenants with their children as remaindermen. They may use and occupy the property during their lifetimes, but upon their death, the property will pass to their children.
- A charitable organization is granted a life estate in a property for the duration of a donor's lifetime. The organization may utilize the property for its purposes during this time, but has no right to sell or otherwise transfer the property.
Legal Terms Similar to Life Tenant
- Remainderman: The individual or entity designated to receive the property after the life tenant's interest in the property expires.
- Beneficiary: The individual or entity designated to receive the benefits of a trust or other legal instrument.
- Fee Simple: An individual or entity that holds fee simple ownership holds complete control and use of the property, including the right to sell, lease, or transfer the property as they see fit.