Can a Life Estate Be Assigned to Someone Else in West Virginia?

By Erika Johansen

A life estate grants rights to property for the duration of the holder's life. In West Virginia, as in other states, the holder has the right to assign or transfer his life estate rights to another party. Those with specific life estate questions should seek professional advice.

Life Estate

When someone receives a life estate in a piece of property, that person (known as the life tenant) has the right to use the property for the duration of his own life. Some life estates are known as "life estate pur autre vie," meaning that the life estate's duration is not measured by the lifespan of the life tenant himself, but by the lifespan of another individual. The language of the life estate deed will make this clear. Either way, once the relevant lifespan ends, the property legally returns to another individual, known as the remainderman, who was named in the life estate deed. The remainderman may be the individual who granted the tenant his life estate in the first place, or she may be a third party.

Life Estate Assignment

Every state, including West Virginia, allows the life tenant to assign his life estate, effectively transferring the usage rights to the property to another party. However, assigning the life estate to another party doesn't change the life estate's duration; the property will still revert to the remainderman when the original life tenant (or other individual whose lifespan is named in the deed) dies. For instance, if a man transfers his life estate to his sister, and he dies five days later, the sister will only have had use of the property for five days before it legally returns to the remainderman.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More

Selling Life Estates

The law also permits a life tenant to sell his interest to another party. However, it can be difficult to value a life estate. West Virginia Code Section 43-2-2 describes the mathematical method for valuation: one should multiply the value of the life estate property by 5.6%, then multiply it by the appropriate value in the Section 43-2-2 table. The product is the gross value of the life estate. Both sold and assigned life estates are still subject to the same duration rules described above.


The life tenant's rights to the property are not unlimited. In a typical life estate, the life tenant is responsible for paying taxes on the property and may also need to perform certain necessary maintenance to keep the property value from declining. The life tenant can't do anything that will damage the remainderman's interest in the property. Such damaging actions are known legally as "waste." When the life tenant sells or assigns his interest, the buyer or assignee is also forbidden from waste in her dealings with the property.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More
What Happens if the Remainderman in a Life Estate Deed Dies?


Related articles

What Is the Meaning of Lifetime Estate on a Deed?

A life estate is an ownership interest in real estate, governed by state law. It gives a person, called a life tenant, the right to live at or use property during his lifetime -- but he has no right to sell the property. When life tenants die, their life estates end, and the property reverts to a designated person called a "remainderman," who then owns the property. Life estates can bypass probate if they are granted through deeds or trusts.

Life Estates & Divorce

One of the most important and complicated aspects of a divorce proceeding is dividing marital property, which may include property subject to a life estate. Divorces are subject to the law of the state where the proceeding is taking place, so the process of dividing up property will vary.

Can a Power of Attorney Give Away a Life Estate?

A power of attorney is a written document wherein a principal grants an agent the power to take action on the principal’s behalf. Powers of attorney are often granted because the principal wants to take a specific action but cannot do it personally for some reason. What an agent can and cannot do is defined in the power of attorney document. A power of attorney can grant an agent the ability to give away a life estate specifically or the right to distribute a principal’s property subject to whatever terms the agent sees fit. However, the power of attorney may limit the circumstances in which an agent can use his power.

Doing the right thing has never been easier. Name Change

Related articles

How Does a Person With a Life Estate Get Title to Property?

Life estates are a unique type of property ownership that allows different people to own land at different times. A ...

How to Establish a Life Estate

Life estates are popular devices for estate planning. A life estate grants a person the use of the property for the ...

Life Estate Laws

When planning your estate, you need to consider who gets your property as well as when you want them to receive it. You ...

Real Estate Laws for Lifetime Rights to Land in North Carolina

Generally, when someone passes away and leaves you land, you can do whatever you want with the land, including selling ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED