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  1. #1
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    Default Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Alabama
    My sister's sons both died and they were the named beneficiaries of the life estate. When the first son died, his name was removed and only the second son's name was listed. He passed about two weeks ago. He has two worthless children who apparently now inherit it. He had no will. My sister needs care for dementia. Am I being advised correctly that there is no way to break the life estate and it now passes without a will to her grandchildren. She still lives in the house but needs assisted living badly. She owns a number of acres of land around three houses on a main highway that is zoned commercial so could produce the money for her care. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Life estates don't have beneficiaries, so it's not entirely clear what's happening here.

    A life estate gives one person (the life tenant) the right to possess real property for a period of time measured by some person's life. Typically, but not always, the life estate is measured by the life of the life tenant. Once the person by whose life the life estate is mentioned dies, the property reverts to another person (called the remainderman or remaindermen). If the remainderman dies before the life tenant, then the remainder rights typically go to the remainderman's heirs, but it depends on exactly what the deed says. With that said:


    Quote Quoting Dmd_100
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    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Alabama
    My sister's sons both died and they were the named beneficiaries of the life estate.
    I assume what you mean is that someone created a life estate, which I'll assume unless you say otherwise is based on your sister's life, with your sister being the life tenant and her sons being the remaindermen. Correct?


    Quote Quoting Dmd_100
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    When the first son died, his name was removed and only the second son's name was listed.
    Please explain exactly what this means. Removed from what? And how?


    Quote Quoting Dmd_100
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    Am I being advised correctly that there is no way to break the life estate and it now passes without a will to her grandchildren.
    No one who hasn't seen the deed that created the life estate and whatever other documents are relevant can answer this question intelligently. What I can tell you is that your opinion about the "worth" of your two great-nephews is utterly irrelevant to the issue. Also, as explained above, if your sister is the life tenant and the life estate is measured by her life, then the life estate continues regardless of the deaths of the two remaindermen.


    Quote Quoting Dmd_100
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    She still lives in the house but needs assisted living badly. She owns a number of acres of land around three houses on a main highway that is zoned commercial so could produce the money for her care. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    I'm not sure what this has to do with the life estate, but if your sister has significant real estate holdings that can or do generate income needed to care for her, then that's great. Has a legal guardian or conservator been appointed to care for your dementia-stricken sister and manager her assets? If not, and if you're interesting in undertaking to do that, then I'd suggest that you consult with a local attorney for advice.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    The life estate is not an asset that can be passed from heir to heir. Only the named beneficiaries are those recipients, in this case the son(s). The life estate doesn't pass to the grandchildren, it passes to the remainder man or men, which would also be named in the will. In other words, after the brothers died there should not be a life estate.

    You need to contact an attorney to get this sorted out and get the deed handled, or, more likely, the executor of the estate. This really isn't a DIY project.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Quote Quoting Mark47n
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    The life estate is not an asset that can be passed from heir to heir. Only the named beneficiaries are those recipients, in this case the son(s). The life estate doesn't pass to the grandchildren, it passes to the remainder man or men, which would also be named in the will. In other words, after the brothers died there should not be a life estate.

    You need to contact an attorney to get this sorted out and get the deed handled, or, more likely, the executor of the estate. This really isn't a DIY project.
    I am not sure that I agreed with you Mark. When a life estate is created the property is actually deeded to the remaindermen with the original owner retaining a life estate in the property. Therefore I would see that deeded property as part of the deceased remainderman's assets that would indeed pass to his/her heirs.

    In any case, I agree with you that consulting an attorney would be a very good idea.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    I am not sure that I agreed with you Mark. When a life estate is created the property is actually deeded to the remaindermen with the original owner retaining a life estate in the property. Therefore I would see that deeded property as part of the deceased remainderman's assets that would indeed pass to his/her heirs.

    In any case, I agree with you that consulting an attorney would be a very good idea.
    Yes, the property does belong to the remaindermen, that's my point. A life estate cannot be passed to heirs. When the recipient of a life estate dies there is no more life estate. That's what I'm trying to get across.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Quote Quoting Mark47n
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    Yes, the property does belong to the remaindermen, that's my point. A life estate cannot be passed to heirs. When the recipient of a life estate dies there is no more life estate. That's what I'm trying to get across.
    I agree if the life estate is measured by the life of the life tenant. However, as I mentioned in my prior response, it is possible for a life estate to be measured by a life other than that of the life tenant. If, for example, the deed reads, "from O to A and his issue for the life of B, and then to R," the death of A would not terminate the life estate.

    Also, in your first response, you wrote, "The life estate doesn't pass to the grandchildren, it passes to the remainder man or men, which would also be named in the will. In other words, after the brothers died there should not be a life estate." The last part of that doesn't make any sense. There's all sorts of imprecise language in the original post, but it seems to imply that the OP's sister is the life tenant and that the OP's nephews were the remaindermen. The nephews/remaindermen have died, but the sister is still alive, so why would that result in there "not be[ing] a life estate" anymore? If, in fact, the life estate is measured by the life of the OP's sister, then it is very much still in existence since the sister is still alive, with the remainder interest presumably passing to the heirs of the OP's nephews.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Quote Quoting pg1067
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    I agree if the life estate is measured by the life of the life tenant. However, as I mentioned in my prior response, it is possible for a life estate to be measured by a life other than that of the life tenant. If, for example, the deed reads, "from O to A and his issue for the life of B, and then to R," the death of A would not terminate the life estate.

    Also, in your first response, you wrote, "The life estate doesn't pass to the grandchildren, it passes to the remainder man or men, which would also be named in the will. In other words, after the brothers died there should not be a life estate." The last part of that doesn't make any sense. There's all sorts of imprecise language in the original post, but it seems to imply that the OP's sister is the life tenant and that the OP's nephews were the remaindermen. The nephews/remaindermen have died, but the sister is still alive, so why would that result in there "not be[ing] a life estate" anymore? If, in fact, the life estate is measured by the life of the OP's sister, then it is very much still in existence since the sister is still alive, with the remainder interest presumably passing to the heirs of the OP's nephews.
    Fair enough. I reread the Op and it is confusing to say the least.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beneficiaries of Life Estate Died Before the Owner

    Quote Quoting Dmd_100
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    My question involves real estate located in the State of: Alabama
    My sister's sons both died and they were the named beneficiaries of the life estate. When the first son died, his name was removed and only the second son's name was listed. He passed about two weeks ago. He has two worthless children who apparently now inherit it. He had no will. My sister needs care for dementia. Am I being advised correctly that there is no way to break the life estate and it now passes without a will to her grandchildren. She still lives in the house but needs assisted living badly. She owns a number of acres of land around three houses on a main highway that is zoned commercial so could produce the money for her care. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    I have a hunch how this mess came about, but given what we have it seems plausible.

    1. At some time in the past your sister owned the land in fee simple, meaning she owned the whole ball of wax giving her the right to sell the whole or part of the bundle, lease it, mortgage it, or retain it in her estate to be distributed by will.

    2. Then to avoid probate someone (most likely her sons) talked her into foolishly divesting future control of the property by deeding herself a life estate with the remainder over to her two sons. Meaning upon her demise fee simple ownership automatically passes to the remaindermen or their heirs. In other words, as you have been told the life estate does not pass on upon the death of the life tenant. It expires upon the death of life tenant. The remaindermen then take title by the same deed or testamentary instrument by which sister obtained her life estate interest. And nothing can be done unilaterally to vary the terms of that deed or document.

    It is possible that some previous owner deeded sister a life estate with the remainder over to her children, or it was devised that way by a previous owner's will. But the manner by which it was created is inconsequential. What is of consequence is that neither her sons nor their heirs are considered "beneficiaries of her life estate" and none can be arbitrarily divested/removed of their rights to succeed to ownership of the property.

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