Has My Life Estate In My Step-Father’s Property Terminated?

I am from KY and wintering in FL at the moment. My step-father passed away in December. I received a copy of his Will today wherein he leaves his home to one of his brothers, HOWEVER, #1 gives me the right o “live at the property for as long as he may wish, however, must pay for upkeep at the property and pay the property taxes” and #2, after I die or move from the property, it then passes to his brother for ownership.” My uncle wants me to sign a quit claim deed to transfer my interest to him for $1. He states that I “moved from the property long ago and have no interest in the estate”. This is not true, I would like to retain the property to reside in, at least in summer and would maintain and pay taxes. I fail to see how I could have moved from the property long when my step-father just passed away 2 months ago. I haven’t even had the chance to move into the property yet. I know there will be a big fight with my step father’s family. Can they twist the Will to support their claims? And do I need an attorney. I honestly cannot afford to hire an attorney to fight this, but don’t want to lose my interest in the property if they “out money” me. Thank you for any insight.

This is a situation where you may greatly benefit from retaining an attorney. Your stepfather gave you what is called a life estate, meaning that you have possessory rights in the property during your lifetime. This life estate is contingent on you living on the property. You also have the duty to maintain it and pay its taxes. You have an interest in it, but you don’t technically “own” it. Your uncle has what’s called a remainder. This means he (or his estate) get the property when you leave or die. You cannot sell the property to someone else, because your uncle has his own interest in it.

Assuming your stepfather’s will is valid, and the particular language he used in setting up your life estate is enforceable, your uncle will have difficulty in terminating your life estate. He may be able to argue that your stepfather did not intend to have you live only half the year on the property. If he is successful with this argument, he could argue that by wintering in Florida, you have relinquished your life estate. Consulting with a Kentucky attorney specializing in wills and trusts can ensure that your interests and your father’s wishes are protected.