When someone has a life estate in real property, they have the right to use it and receive income from it until they die. They are unable to mortgage, sell, or “waste” it. They also have to pay taxes on the property as well.

But what happens to the property when they die?

It depends on how they received the life estate. If the original owner gave them a life estate interest in the property, the document giving them a life estate typically indicates what happens to the property after the recipient of the life estate dies. Who that person is will depend upon the wishes of the grantor on that document.

If the person has a life estate in the property because they transferred it to someone else but in that document retained a life estate in it for themselves, then it will go to that someone else.

But to whom it goes depends on the situation. One can’t make blanket statements about what happens to the property owned by someone holding a life estate in that property when the someone holding that life estate dies. What happens depends.

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