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How Does a Life Estate Pur Autre Vie Work?


The legal term “pur autre vie” means “for the life of another” in French and when used in property law refers to a life estate that a grantor bestows on another person, known as a life tenant, who can hold and use an estate, often a family residence, during the life of third person. Below we’ll explain how it works. A financial advisor can offer expert insight and critical guidance as you do estate planning or update an existing estate plan. 

What Is a Life Estate?

Estates can be classified in many ways. One way is a classification typically used in real estate. A freehold estate is one in which you have the exclusive right to enjoy the possession of a property indefinitely. A leasehold estate is limited by a time factor. A life estate is a form of freehold estate, and the life tenant is guaranteed the use of the property for their lifetime (sometimes called a life estate “pur sa vie,” which means “for his own life”). The remainderman in the life estate is whoever inherits the life estate after the life tenant has died. The end of the life of the life estate is when the life tenant dies.

The purpose of a life estate is to provide for the life tenant. A joint purpose is to be sure the next generation, or some other party, ends up with the proceeds of the life estate at the life tenant’s death.

Let’s say David was married to Ramona. David had a child when he married Ramona. They had no children of their own. If David wanted to ensure that his child would eventually own the family home in which Ramona resides, he could establish a life estate and Ramona as a life tenant. Then, he could name his child as the eventual beneficiary, after Ramona dies, otherwise called the remainderman.

What Is a Life Estate Pur Autre Vie?

How Does a Life Estate Pur Autre Vie Work?

A life estate can also be established that is “pur autre vie” or dependent upon the life of another. Here’s how that would work using the example above. Let’s say David wanted to ensure that his child could live in the family home but only as long as his wife Ramona is alive. To accomplish that David, as the grantor, would set up a life estate pur autre vie,  enabling his son, as life tenant, to live in the family home until Ramona dies.

The property in a life estate pur autre vie can be sold, mortgaged or leased by the life tenant to another person with the approval of the third person or beneficiary.

Two Issues: Reversion and Remainder

  • Reversion – A reversion occurs at the end of a life estate when the property or land reverts to its original owner, known as the grantor. An estate in reversion simply means at the end of the life estate, the property that was conveyed to someone else reverts back to the grantor.
  • Remainder – An estate in remainder occurs when another estate is set up at the same time as the life estate. It takes effect immediately after the life estate is terminated.

Bottom Line

How Does a Life Estate Pur Autre Vie Work?Family situations can be complex. Sometimes such complexities are best handled by creating a life estate. But other times they are best handled by creating a life estate pur autre vie. “Pur autre vie” is a French phrase meaning “for the life of another.” Handling things with a life estate pur autre view means someone gives another person access to or uses of an estate, typically a residence, but only as long as a third person is alive.

Tips on Estate Planning

  • Estate planning is an area that can almost always benefit from expert advice. A financial advisor can clarify your estate planning choices and help you develop a plan that fits your goals, timeline and risk profile. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • SmartAsset provides you with a estate planning guide that includes the state laws relevant to estate planning and estate tax. Check it out.

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