life estates in Texas

Life Estates in Texas Real Estate: Formation, Rights, And Duties

In Texas there is a limited transfer called a life estate. This transfer is limited in duration by a life. Due to the limited nature of such a transfer, a life estate brings with it a number of unique rights and duties.

The Basics Of A Life Estate In Texas
A life estate is most commonly granted for the life of the grantee. The grantee receives a possessory interest in the estate until the death of the measuring life. At that time, the interest reverts back to either the original grantor or to a third party, called a remainderman.

In Texas, no particular or specific words are required to create a life estate, as long as there is clear intent that a life estate is to be created. Common phrases indicating the creation of a life estate include “for life” or “until his/her death.” Due to the nature of a life estate, a life tenant has certain rights and duties unique to this form of ownership.

Rights Of A Life Tenant
A life tenant in Texas has the following rights:

  1. The right to possession of the property: Even though a life tenant is not the only party who has an interest in the property, the life tenant has the exclusive right to possession, management, and control of the property.


  1. The right to all rents and profits during possession: If the property produces income, the life tenant has the exclusive right to it. This includes royalties from an oil and gas well if a producing well was in existence at the time the life estate was granted.


  1. The right to sell, lease, mortgage, or otherwise alienate the life estate in the property. This right is still limited by the measuring life. For example, a life tenant may lease the property for the duration of the measuring life only.


  1. The right to invoke Texas homestead law, If applicable.


Duties Of A Life Tenant
While in possession of the land, a life tenant owes the following duties to future interest holders:

  1. The duty to pay ordinary taxes on the land and interest on a mortgage: A life tenant has a duty to pay taxes to the extent the property produces income. A life tenant is also responsible for interest payments on the properties mortgage, but not the principle.


  1. The duty not to commit waste: The most significant duty of a life tenant is that they may not use the property in such a way as to decrease the value of the property. In general, this requires that a life tenant exercise the ordinary care of a prudent person to preserve and protect the estate.

If you have any questions about a life estate, contact attorney Cynthia Fronterhouse.