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