Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Life Estates

Something that I've referred to in previous posts is a form of ownership called a life estate. Life estates occur when an owner sells or gives away real property to another, but reserves the right to live on the property for the remainder of his or her life. The person who receives the property has, what's known as, a remainder interest.

Life estates can be useful tools in the estate planning process. This type of ownership can allow the property to be transferred upon death without going through the probate process, because the person who has the remainder interest already owns the property.

Life estates can also have tax benefits. The basis of the property will be the market value at the death, rather than at the time of the gift, which will generally result in a tax savings when the property is later sold.

Life estates can have some benefit for medical assistance planning. Theoretically, medical assistance liens placed on the property for benefits expended for the grantor should disappear upon their death. However, the Minnesota legislature enacted a statute in 2003 which allows medical liens to remain on the property after the grantor's death. Life estates no longer allow property to pass free and clear from any medical liens. However, a life estate may reduce the amount of value of the property that a medical can attach to.

If a life estate seems like a form of ownership that may address some of your estate planning concerns, contact a licensed attorney.