Are Remaindermen on Life Estate Legally Responsible for Costs of Maintenance?

 In Real Estate

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I am a remainderman with five others of property held in a life estate. The life estate holder is asking for reimbursement from the remaindermen for expenses paid for the house. I cannot find anywhere a requirement that remaindermen pay for house maintenance. What expense could the life estate holder be referring to?


The law is on your side. The life estate holder (or “life tenant“) is responsible for the expenses of maintaining the property. However, improvements to the property are more of a grey area. If the life estate owner has capital expenses that ultimately benefit the remaindermen, there may be an argument that the remaindermen should contribute. But then they should also have a say in what capital improvements are undertaken. For instance, while there might be an argument that updating the kitchen in a house or installing a pool is for everyone’s benefit, the remaindermen should not have to pay their pro rata share if they would not have taken these steps.

On the other hand, while the life tenant is legally responsible for all maintenance costs, if he or she can’t afford them, it may be in the best interest of the remaindermen to contribute to the costs in order to make sure the property is maintained. In other words, while the legal answer may go one way, the equitable or practical one might go the other way.


Related Articles:

Is a Life Estate a Good Way to Avoid Probate?

Is a Life Estate or Irrevocable Trust Better for Protecting my House from Medicaid Estate Recovery?

How are Capital Gains in Life Estate Affected by Improvements?

What Happens to Capital Gain when Joint Owner of Life Estate Dies?

A Life Estate Interest can be Conveyed But Not Extended

Showing 2 comments
  • Gail Fabrega

    I am a remainderman if a life estate my aunt left her friend who lived with her for 30 years. She moved to another state and rents the house out. She is 89 years old. The air conditioner needs to be changed and will cost 8000.00. Am I responsible for part of that expense and how much?

    • Harry Margolis

      No. The so-called “life tenant” is responsible for maintenance of the property. Since she’s also entitled to the rental income, this is only fair. However, that’s the legal rule, not necessarily the practical one. It can be difficult to force life tenants to make necessary repairs. In addition, given the age of your aunt’s friend, it’s likely that you will receive a greater benefit from the new air conditioning system than she will. I don’t know whether either of you has the cash to pay for the repair. But depending on your respective financial situations, it might make sense to work out a compromise on this.
      Just my two cents.

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