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My step-mother got a Life Estate on the family farm, there…

My step-mother got a...

My step-mother got a Life Estate on the family farm, there was a house 23 years ago that could be lived in, but needed some repairs. There were also out building; barn, shop, a one bedroom smaller house. The windows were all there, doors, working bathrooms. In talking to 2 realtors they advised me that she had to live there. She has not lived there in 23 years, nor has she maintained any of the buildings. I was advised by the realtors that the Life Estate means you have to live on the property. The land has been farmed and she gets a 1/3 of the crop, but as I say, she never maintained any of the other assets on the property-house, barn, shop. They have been vandalized so bad that they are not livable anymore. Can the Life Estate be defunct because she didn't live there?

Lawyer's Assistant: What steps has your step-mother taken so far? Has she prepared or filed any paperwork?

Because this property has been in my family for 116 years and my father upon his death left the property to my brother and I and he also passed away. I am the only living child, there were no other children. My step-mother had no children, several nieces, nephews, brother and sisters. I got the family farm as I contested the will because of the Life Estate. I have legal documents that says she can not but the farm in debit, or not avoid paying the taxes. But as I've said 2 realtors said she was suppose to live on the farm, which she hasn't and therefore the Life Estate should not be effective because of that.

Lawyer's Assistant: Where is the farm located?

In Lincoln County in Washington State.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

I was shocked when the Realtors told me she had to maintain the buildings that are or were on the property and the electricity, and etc. She hasn't done any of that, other than pay the taxes.

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Answered in 4 hours by:
3/26/2018
Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 41,059
Experience: 17 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
Verified

Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I am a licensed attorney and will try my best to help with your situation. There may be a slight delay in my responses as I type out an answer or reply.

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First off, don't listen to realtors about the law.. most of them are completely ignorant and will not give you information that is even remotely close to being true.

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With that said, a life estate gives the life tenant the right to use and enjoy the property for their lifetime. That may or may not require that they live there... it depends entirely on what the actual life estate says.. So no, having a life estate doesn't automatically mean someone has to live there..

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However, in virtually all life estates, there is a requirement that the life tenant maintain the property, keep insurance, and pay taxes.... unless the life estate says that the remainderman has to do all that. Again.. depends entirely on what the life tenancy says.

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But if the life estate grant says that the step mother has to maintain, then if she doesn't, you can sue her for "waste" to have a judge find her in breach and then terminate the life estate.

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So you need to review the actual life estate language in any deed or will and see if she has to maintain. If it is silent, then you can still sue her for breach as the judge would likely rule that if she is getting paid for the crops, she has a duty to maintain..

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thanks

Barrister

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Customer reply replied 26 days ago
It stated that the buildings were old and she is not obligated to maintain or repair. So I guess that is a wash.
I want to sell the farm and she advised me only if she agrees. She is 89 years old.
So I guess I have no means of selling it without having to pay her estate if I read this correctly. The land is a high producing farm ground, and it is all dry-land.
Thank you.
Customer reply replied 26 days ago
Ok, Thank you. The realtor I spoke with is a land broker realtor. That is all I know.
Thank you

Ok, then yes, you are kind of stuck here if there was no duty to maintain the buildings and no obligation to live there..

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And yes, if she refuses to sell, you just have to wait.. That is the way life estates work... they don't end unless the life tenant dies or they agree to sell..

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You can still sell your interest, but you would be selling your remainder interest and the buyer would just step into your shoes to wait on her to pass..

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As an aside, in addition to being an attorney, I have also been a licensed Realtor for over 15 years...

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You are very welcome. Happy to help any time.

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It was my pleasure to work with you and help with your question. If you ever need me in the future, you can post a new question with "For Barrister" in the title and the JustAnswer employees will get it to me.

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If you feel I have answered all your questions, I would very much appreciate a 5 star rating by clicking on the rating scale on your screen as that is the only way I receive credit for my work.

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Thanks much

Barrister

Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 41,059
Experience: 17 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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