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A life estate deed is a tool used by individuals in Houston to protect their loved ones from the expenses and time commitment involved in inheriting real property.

What Is a Life Estate Deed?

A life estate deed is a popular estate planning tool in which an individual’s assets are divided according to interests. One of these divisions involves the use of the asset by the owner during his or her lifetime, while the other division pertains to who the remainder of the asset will be distributed to after the current owner’s death. Life estate deeds are most often used when a property owner has a house that he or she would like to continue living in during the remainder of life and then leave for a beneficiary. However, this tool helpful with any type of real property, including land and anything that is attached to land.

How Does a Life Estate Deed Work?

A Houston life estate deed creates joint ownership of a property which will make it easier for the beneficiary to receive the property after the current owner’s death without facing estate tax burdens or the risk of another survivor gaining access to the property due to intestate succession rules. Because this planning tool conveys joint ownership to a beneficiary, property owners need to understand that, under a life estate deed, they will be permitted to continue living in the home but must:

  • Continue to pay taxes, insurance, and keep the home in good condition.
  • Obtain consent from the beneficiary to revoke the life estate deed.
  • Must obtain consent from the beneficiary to make repairs on the home, or to sell or rent the home to someone else.

The beneficiary of such a deed — also referred to as a remainderman — also has certain responsibilities, including:

  • Not selling or transferring the property without the life tenant’s signature.
  • Avoid debts that can involve his or her interest in the home, which can impact the life tenant if the remainderman predeceases him or her.

Upon death, the asset is passed to the beneficiary, without need for the probate process, by simply filing the death certificate of the individual from whom the asset was passed.

Who Needs a Life Estate Deed?

If any of the following circumstances apply to your situation, you should speak with a Houston life estate deed lawyer:

  • You have a home or other real estate, and you wish to protect beneficiaries from paying estate taxes or undergoing an expensive probate process in order to receive it.
  • You wish to pass your home to a beneficiary at the time of your death, but also want to retain any tax savings and other benefits of home ownership during life.
  • Your home is protected from Medicaid estate recovery if you seek Medicaid services during life and the government seeks to recover the costs of those services through your assets.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Life Estate Deed?

If you are planning to create a life estate deed in order to leave your home, office building, or vacant land to a beneficiary, an estate planning lawyer can help you prepare this document in order to ensure that the deed has been properly created and that all the information necessary for the proper creation and execution of the deed has been included. A lawyer can also assist in specific situations pertaining to life estate deeds, such as if there has been a legal claim filed against the remainderman that could impact his or her ability to receive the asset after the life tenant has died. Your lawyer can assist with complex situations, such as deeds that designate a multiple beneficiaries and require the creation of co-ownership provisions.

An additional service your lawyer can provide is an exploration of other estate planning tools that will work better given the circumstances of your situation. Some alternatives to a life estate deed include:

  • An enhanced life estate, also known as a Lady Bird Deed, which provides similar asset protection but allows the life tenant to revoke the deed or transfer it to other beneficiaries without the consent of the remainderman. Lady Bird Deeds are only recognized in a handful of states, including Texas.
  • A transfer-on-death deed, which allows the owner of the asset to name a beneficiary in a process similar to naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy. This designation can be freely revoked or changed during the course of the owner’s life.

Contact an experienced Houston estate attorney for a free case evaluation and a review of the asset protection options that are available to you.

Finding the Best Houston Life Estate Deed Attorney for You 

A life estate deed is an important estate planning document for many people. Don’t take chances with your last wishes. Working with an experienced Houston life estate deed attorney can ensure that your documents are legal, valid, and comprehensive.

A Houston Life Estate Deed Attorney Here To Support You

Whenever you find yourself needing to reach out to our office, you can be sure you won’t need to wait for hours or days in order to get a response. Here at Stafford Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being easily accessible and on responding to all client inquiries as soon as possible.

The fact of the matter is, one day you will need to fall back on your estate plan. Whether it will simply be to pass on your family’s wealth after you pass, or something even more heartbreaking like needing a new guardian appointment for your children, having a thorough and customized plan in place will help make sure your family and your future are well taken care of. This plan might need to include a life estate deed, and you can rest easy knowing that an experienced Houston Life Estate Deed Attorney has your best interests at heart.

Reach out today for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of a life estate deed is to simplify the process of passing property on to a loved one after someone passes away. This allows the current owner to continue using the property while they are alive, but automatically transfer the ownership to someone else upon their death.

There are a few disadvantages of a life estate that should be considered. Primarily, once the life estate deed is in place, the person passing on the property cannot do anything to the home (like selling it or doing any major renovations) without the approval of the person it has been deeded to.

The primary advantage of a life estate is that your loved ones can avoid probate and that the life estate cannot be used to satisfy creditors.

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