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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 117415
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I'm tryng to figure out if I can petition the court to

Customer Question

I'm tryng to figure out if I can petition the court to terminate a life estate on behalf of the person with a remainder interest, The life tenant is still alive, but is elderly, living in Japan, has abandoned the property and is nonresponsive to attempted contact.
JA: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state the property is in?
Customer: Florida
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: No.
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I don't think so.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
One of the grounds for terminating a life estate is abandonment. If a person who has a life estate is unable to use or has abandoned the life estate property in a manner that indicates they are not likely to return, if they refuse to willingly terminate the life estate, then you can file a petition to terminate the life estate in court and present evidence of the abandonment and you have to serve the other party in Japan and the court would then review the conditions of their absence and can issue the order terminating the life estate.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
How do I draft this petition? Is there a form I can use?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
These motions are not made available online, you would need to go to the court library and speak to the librarian there about their form books if you are not going to use a local attorney (who drafts this from scratch) and tell the librarian that you need a petition to terminate life estate and they will direct you to the form books for a template for you to follow. Generally, if there are multiple heirs involved though, the court is going to force you to use a local attorney to file this petition.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Is there case law or a Florida statute that I can reference that states that this is the law in Florida?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
Unfortunately, under FL law, abandonment does not typically work, you did not state you were in FL.
In FL also, FL probate court rules mandate you have an attorney, you cannot do this without one I am afraid.
All you could do in FL in this situation is actually force the life estate tenant to pay for expenses for the property.
The FL court held in Chapman v. Chapman, 526 So. 2d 131 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), that the duty owed by a life tenant to the remaindermen was “comparable to that of a trustee … because the life tenant cannot injure the property to the detriment of the rights of the remaindermen . . . . Ordinary life tenants may not permanently diminish or alter the value of the remaindermen’s future estate, a limitation which places on ordinary life tenants the responsibility for all waste of whatever character.” Therefore, if a life tenant fails to pay the expenses required to be borne by him/her by statute, then the remaindermen may properly bring an action for waste and the court will order them to pay and if they do not pay only then the court could consider terminating the life estate or giving an order to rent out the property (which is what they did in Chapman).
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Thank you. When your assistant (JA) asked me where I was located, I told her/him Florida. By the way, I am an attorney. I have researched this issue a lot, and I have had a very hard time finding a satifactory answer for my client. I was just hoping you would have more answers than I have been able to find.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your reply.
It did not appear, sorry, we have issues with the system (which is a bot) and the experts who are not site employees keep complaining but it goes uncorrected. I apologize.
Sorry, but the Chapman case in FL is the controlling law in FL and how they proceed. There is a suit against the person with the life estate for waste of the life estate and if they do not answer the suit, in that case the court may consider dismissing the life estate.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your help. I'm sure the life tenant won't pay anything, as she is elderly, and living in Japan and mostly nonresponsive to emails/phone claas, letters, etc. The remainderman are her two step-children (father deceased - which is why she has the life estate).
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 11 months ago.

Thank you for your reply.

If she does not respond, according to Chapman the courts are not precluded from terminating the life estate, they are just dissuaded from doing so, but being that she is not responsive arguing to terminate is not outside of what the case law says the court has power to do as one of their choices of remedy.