Life Time Rights

Life Time Rights

Life estate now -- Impact of later bequests under will: My mother-in-law has a piece of land she wants to give us lifetime rights to but this piece of property is located on land that she has with a house on it. My husband is one of 4 siblings. What happens when my mother in law passes away and all of the land is left to them equally. Do we still have the lifetime rights on the part we live on? What if the others want to sell?


The facts are fully clear but let's see what we can do to help you out. Your mother in law has a property that she wants to give you a life estate in. This means you and your husband, her son, would have the right to use the property for your lives (a joint life estate). She could do this by having a real estate attorney using a deed to transfer a life estate to you, with her reserving the remainder interest (what's left after your life estate) for her. That way she could bequeath the property in her will to her four children, one of whom is her son, your husband. A couple of things are not clear. You indicate she has a house on the property. It sounds like she will continue to live in that house for her life, so that she really has a life estate in the house. If the property is big and you intend to build on part of the property, the better answer might be to subdivide the property. Then your mother in law can give you a life estate in the property you and your husband are to have. However, instead of the property going back to her/her estate (reversion) the deed to you with a life estate could then pass on to the four siblings equally. Or, if what she intends is to give you and your husband a life estate in that parcel on the death of the last of you and your husband the parcel could pass to the three siblings of your husband. That would mean the remainder would go direct to them, and not have to pass back to your mother in law, through probate, and then on to them again.

The second confusion part to your facts is that if your mother in law has a house she is living in, perhaps that house can be retained by her and the four children can receive the remainder interest in that house and property. In other words, on your mother in laws death that property would pass to all four kids equally. If in fact the house parcel she is using can be separated from the parcel she intends to give you and your husband a life estate, this approach may work.

Whatever you opt to do the situation has some complications so get the help of a real estate attorney (not a general practice attorney that dabbles in real estate) and get this done right. Also, you mentioned nothing of taxes or elder law planning. There could create other significant issues you should address (really, have your mother in law address) before any planning is consummated.

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