What Happens if the Remainderman in a Life Estate Deed Dies?

By Anna Assad

A person who reserves a life estate on a property deed has the right to live on and use the property until she dies. Sometimes, as part of estate planning, a person will transfer her real estate to another person, such as her child, while keeping a life estate for herself. The remainderman is the person who receives the real estate on the life estate deed. If the remainderman dies before the life estate holder, his interest in the property may pass to his heirs or any other remaindermen named on the life estate deed.

Life Estate

Life estate laws vary by state. Depending on the conditions included in the life estate reservation on the deed and local laws, the holder of a life estate may remain responsible for the property's bills such as homeowner's insurance premiums. However, she's no longer the legal owner; she has just the life use interest. Some states view a life estate holder as a tenant who doesn't have to pay rent unless the life estate deed reservation states that she does.


Since the person who keeps the life estate still has interest in the property, the "remainder" of her property interest passes to the person receiving the property on the life estate deed. For example, if the person who kept the life estate owned 100 percent of the property when she transferred it on a deed to the remainderman, the remainderman will own 100 percent of the property once the life estate ends.

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Death of Remainderman

If the only remainderman on a life estate deed dies before the person with the life estate, the property interest remaining after the life estate passes to the remainderman's legal heirs. The life estate does not end just because the only remainderman dies. If more than one remainderman was named on the life estate deed, and one remainderman dies, what happens next depends on how the remaindermen took ownership to the property on the deed. If the remaindermen were joint tenants, the dead remainderman's interest automatically belongs to the surviving remainderman. If they took ownership as tenants in common, the dead remainderman's interest belongs to his estate.

Life Estate Termination

A person with a life estate may end the life estate while she's still living by creating and filing another deed to the property that specifically terminates her life estate. A deed terminating a life estate usually has the remainderman named on the original life estate deed as the receiver of the real estate. A life estate may end by its own terms. For example, if a life estate clause on a deed states that the estate ends if the holder moves to a nursing home, the life estate terminates once the holder enters a nursing home.

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


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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 may also want to avoid the probate process, which often delays the transfer of property. One option is creating a life estate, which allows your real estate to be immediately transferred to another person after your death without going through probate.

What Happens If I Inherit Property With a Mortgage?

Inheriting a home can become a troublesome financial burden, especially if the home comes with a mortgage. Under certain circumstances, you may be required to repay the entire loan in a very short time. The options available to you depend on your relationship to the person who named you as beneficiary of the home and the terms of the mortgage agreement they originally signed.

Do I Need to Record a Divorce Decree With a Quit Claim Deed?

Not all deeds are created equal. While a warranty deed carries a guarantee that the person signing the deed owns an interest in the land, a quitclaim deed does not. Quitclaims are often used for property transfers from one former spouse to another following a divorce. In some states, a divorce decree must be filed with a quitclaim to transfer marital property.

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