What are the Rights and Responsibilities of a Life Tenant in Texas?

A life tenant is a person who has the right to possess real property for the term of a measuring life. The measuring life is typically the life of a grantee (the person to whom a conveyance is made), although a third person can also be a measuring life.

For example, Joe could grant a life estate to Jane for the term of her life, or for the life of a third person. When the measuring life terminates, the property either reverts to the grantor (the owner making the conveyance) of the property or vests in a third-party, known as a remainderman.

Additionally, in Texas, surviving spouses have the right to reside in the couple’s homestead for the term of their lives, unless the spouses have waived that right in a marital property agreement.

Those who have a life tenancy have the exclusive right of possession, management, and control of the property during the term of the measuring life, and can claim the property as their homestead. Life tenants are also entitled to exclusive right to income or royalties produced by the property, and can sell or lease the property for the duration of the measuring life.

With those rights, however, come responsibilities. During the term of the life tenancy, life tenants have the duty to pay for utilities, expenses necessary to maintain the property in good condition, property taxes, and interest on the mortgage (the principal is owed by the remainderman). Additionally, life tenants cannot engage in intentional conduct that decreases the value of the property or neglect the property such that its value is decreased.

The obligation to maintain insurance on the property falls to the remainderman to preserve the asset that will eventually pass to them when the life tenancy expires.

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