Understanding Life Estates: A Comprehensive Guide under Missouri Law

As you plan for the future, understanding various estate planning tools, such as life estates, can be beneficial. This article will clarify what a life estate is, how it operates under Missouri law, and the pros and cons of setting one up.

1. Defining a Life Estate

A life estate is a legal arrangement where an individual, known as the life tenant, has the right to use, possess, and benefit from a property during their lifetime. Upon their death, the property automatically transfers to another person, the remainderman, who will own the property outright.

2. Establishing a Life Estate in Missouri

Creating a life estate involves drafting a new deed for the property that explicitly states the life tenant's rights to the property during their lifetime and identifies the remainderman. It's crucial to work with an experienced Missouri attorney to ensure the deed is legally sound and accurately represents your wishes.

3. The Rights and Responsibilities of the Life Tenant

Under Missouri law, the life tenant has the right to use the property, collect rents, and benefit from any profits from the property during their lifetime. However, they're also responsible for maintaining the property, including regular upkeep and payment of property taxes and insurance.

4. The Role of the Remainderman

The remainderman is the person or entity who will take full ownership of the property upon the life tenant's death. The remainderman has an interest in the property but typically cannot use or possess the property until the life tenant's death.

5. Advantages of a Life Estate

Life estates can offer several benefits, such as avoiding probate, as the property automatically transfers to the remainderman upon the life tenant's death. This type of arrangement can also provide peace of mind to the life tenant, knowing that their property will go to a chosen individual after their passing.

6. Potential Drawbacks

Despite their benefits, life estates can also have potential downsides. For instance, the life tenant cannot sell or mortgage the property without the remainderman's consent. Also, a poorly planned life estate may have unforeseen tax implications.

7. Legal Consultation is Key

Given the complexities and potential legal ramifications of life estates, consulting with an experienced Missouri attorney is crucial. They can provide comprehensive advice tailored to your unique circumstances and ensure your estate planning aligns with your long-term goals.


Understanding life estates is essential when considering various estate planning options in Missouri. While life estates offer several benefits, they should be set up with careful planning and professional guidance to avoid potential legal and financial pitfalls.