I INHERITED A CONDOMINIUM FROM MY FATHER WITH A LIFE ESTATE FOR MY SISTER. MY QUESTION IS IF SHE HAS GONE THROUGH HER MONEY AND CANNOT PAY THE ASSOCIATION FEES, TAXES, INSURANCE, ETC. DO I HAVE TO CONTINUE TO PAY THESE BILLS? DOES SHE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE THERE FREE? DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO NOT PAY?
It sounds as if your father bequeathed the condo to you after your sister's life estate. The concerns you raise about carrying costs being paid is a common issue, and often a problem, with life estates (that is why using a trust with other resources to cover costs is often a better option). The first matter you must address is the legal document creating the life estate. Typically (but not always) this would be your father's will (it could be a revocable living trust or even another document). You need to carefully read that document. Start with the provisions governing the life estate to your sister. More comprehensive provisions will often address the exact issue you are raising, namely who pays for various types of costs, and what happens if they don't. If the provision is clear, that may just give you the road map you need to answer your question. For example, some life estate provisions mandate that if the life tenant (your sister) does not pay expenses for some time period (e.g., 6 months) that her interest terminates. If the life estate provision is "bare bones" and doesn't address your concerns, review the rest of the will. Sometimes other provisions dismissed as "boilerplate" are relevant or helpful. Absent that, you need an estate or real estate attorney in your state (laws can differ pretty significantly from state to state) to review your state's law on life estates. The law might address this and provide a solution.
You may very well need to go to court and endeavor to terminate your sister's life estate and accelerate your remainder interest in the property. Not a simple or inexpensive process, and certainly not the way to enhance family relations.
You're best off hiring a local attorney (as noted above) to walk you through these issues as they are not simple.
Whatever you do consider:
There are a host of questions and answers and other resources on this website on life estates which you might benefit from reviewing. Try searching the site for these.
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