When creating an estate plan, one of the most common questions people have is how best to leave their home to beneficiaries. If you are concerned about gifting your real property to your loved ones and losing your control over the property, you may choose to create a life estate deed. What do these deeds mean for probate and estate administration?

Life Estate Deed

A New York life estate deed, sometimes referred to as a life tenancy agreement, provides valuable protection for the person living in a property. It allows them to gain life tenant rights and keep using the property while they are alive while also automatically passing the title of the property upon their death.

Life estate deeds are generally created so that beneficiaries and heirs will receive the family home or other real estate without having to pass the property through probate. The deeds create joint property ownership in which the life tenant has the right to occupy and use the property for the remainder of their life.

What are New York’s Life Tenant Rights?

New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 103 outlines the definition of a legal life tenant as any person who is entitled to possess or use property for their life or the life of someone else. This life tenant definition means that someone has the right to legally use someone else’s property for as long as they live or for as long as the other person is alive.

Creating a Life Estate Deed in New York

If you decide that a life estate deed is the right option for you, your property, and your family, it is recommended that you work with an estate planning attorney. The process will likely include some variation of the below steps.

Identifying Goals

Why did you decide to implement a life estate deed? There are numerous benefits, including avoiding probate, protecting property from estate recovery, and ensuring a specific person receives ownership upon your death. The motivating factors behind your decision may change the approach and process.

Naming the Remainderman

Remainderman is the legal term for the person you choose to inherit your property when you pass away. This person will be named in the life estate deed and will automatically receive title to the property after your death.

Drafting the Life Estate Deed

A life estate deed is a legal document, which means there are certain requirements for making it valid and enforceable. If you are working with an attorney, which is highly recommended, they will know what to include to ensure the deed meets your needs and adheres to legal requirements. The deed should include, at a minimum, a description of the property, the names of the life tenant and the remainderman, and the specific terms of the deed. Review it carefully before signing.

Recording the Deed

Once it has been signed and either witnessed or notarized, the deed will then need to be recorded at the county recorder’s office.

Can a Life Estate Deed be Reversed or Amended?

Life estate deeds can be amended and terminated, but the process is not simple. You need the remainderman’s consent to reverse a life estate deed in New York. The same is true of making changes to the deed. This is why it’s crucial to choose your remainderman wisely. They should be someone you trust to keep your best interests and the best interests of your estate in mind.

Some states offer an enhanced life estate deed or Lady Bird deed, which provides more flexibility for original owners to make changes or revoke the deed without the remainderman’s permission. New York does not recognize this type of deed.

Compassionate and Experienced Estate Administration Attorney

New York life estate deeds provide many benefits for property owners, but they can also create complex estate administration if not handled correctly because creditors or other family members can contest them. You need trusted guidance and legal counsel when the future of your family’s beloved property is in question. If you would like personalized guidance on New York SCPA § 103 or life estate deeds in probate, contact Seitelman Law Offices, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.