Saturday, June 1, 2013

MBE Fast Fact: Rights and Obligations of a Life Tenant

Let's assume that x grants a life-estate to y with a remainder to z. Questions appear on the MBE requiring knowledge as to which duties, if any, y (as the holder of a life-estate) owes to z (as the holder of a remainder.)

Before addressing that, it's helpful to understand the rights of y. Y, as a holder of a life-estate, is entitled to any ordinary use and profits of the land. Put another way, as long as y's use of the land is reasonable, there will be no liability from y towards z. And that said, it's important to know what might constitute an unreasonable use of the land.

Y cannot do anything that might injure the interests of the person holding the remainder (here, z), or anything that might injure a person holding a reversion (here the grantor, x). The most common types of unreasonable use that show up on the MBE are the three types of waste: affirmative waste, permissive waste, and ameliorative waste.

If, in the example above, y were to create any of the three types of waste (for example, permissive waste, if y fails to repair the land in situations in which he is obligated to do so) then z would have the option of either suing y for damages (a remedy at law), or enjoining the act constituting waste (a remedy at equity).

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