Benchmark Title Company, LLC


Life Estates

Sarah Holdener

A life estate is an interest in land that is limited in duration to the life of an individual – either the owner of the estate or another.  The owner if a life estate is called a life tenant.  He or she is entitled to exclusive possession of the property during the existence of the life estate, though the life tenant owes certain obligations towards the future owner of the property, also called the remainderman.


Ex:  Dad, a widower, remarried late in life and did not put new wife on title to his home.  In his will he leaves the residence to “New Wife for life, the remainder to my son Joe.”  This mechanism allows Dad to provide a home for New Wife for the rest of her life, while still passing the family home to his natural heir, his son.


Life estates may be created in a deed, but most commonly they are created in a will, as is the case in the above example.  There is no specific requirement for language, just that the intention of the grantor to create a life estate must be expressed. 


Some other examples of language creating life estates: 

“To X for life, the remainder to Y.” – Above example.

“To X for the life of Z, with the remainder to Y.”  -- Life estate pur autre vie (for the life of) Z, upon whose death the remainder passes to Y.

“To X, but reserving a life estate in the grantor herein.” – A life estate retained by grantor, who conveys only a remainder interest to X.


Why this is of interest to a title person, and could be to you for a couple of reasons: 

(1)  Both the life estate and the interest of the remainderman are alienable, meaning each can convey their interest to another party.  Each may only convey what they own, so a purchaser who buys from the life tenant only receives a life estate and a purchase who buys from the remainderman only receives the remainder interest.  However, should a purchaser acquire both the life estate and the remainder, the doctrine of merger will apply to merge the two estates and recreate a full fee estate in the purchaser.

(2)    Both a life estate and a remainder estate can be mortgaged.   

(3)    A life tenant must pay taxes on the property during their tenancy.

(4)  A life tenant may make improvements upon the land, and may do so without interference from the remainderman.  Anyone lending money for the construction of those improvements may not charge the remainderman.


Any questions can be directed to Benchmark Title at 618-239-3750. Please feel free to call or email:  

John Howe

Doreen Miller, Esq.
Commercial Division Manager

Sarah Holdener, Esq.
General Counsel,
VP Production

Michelle Null
VP Escrow Operations

Serving you from three convenient locations:

Main Office:
1124 Hartman Lane
Shiloh, IL 62221
Ph: 618-239-3750
Escrow Fax: 618-239-3707
Title Fax: 618-239-3757
Fax Orders: 618-310-1589
President: John Howe

318 North Main St.
Columbia, IL 62236
Ph: 618-281-9700
Fax: 618-281-9705
Manager: Randi Schur

4215 S. State Rte 159
Glen Carbon, IL 62034
Ph: 618-288-1695
Fax: 618-288-1852
Manager: Sara Sowell

Letter from the Author, Sarah Holdener

Today is my last edition as author of the Title Tip Newsletter.
After four years at Benchmark Title, I am venturing into private practice with a firm that almost exclusively does title insurance defense litigation, defending title underwriters, agencies, and insureds when claims on title arise. 
Doreen Miller, Esq., Commercial Division Manager, will be stepping into the position of Vice President and General Counsel.  Doreen, John Howe, and Michelle Null will continue to bring you educational and insightful title tips each week.
I have really enjoyed my time at Benchmark, working with such fantastic people, and serving the local real estate community. 

Did you say free?

Be the first in your office to try out, Benchmark Title's new FREE online transaction management system. Why waste time making status phone calls or standing by the fax waiting for your title commitment when you can get what you need instantly from your own computer. Visit for more information or call April Tolan, our SureClose Specialist, at 618-239-3750 for your sign-on so you can start saving yourself time and money today. We'll even give you and your clients a free CD at closing containing copies of their closing documents.

Give me my policy!

Did you know that lenders and home buyers now receive their title policies at the closing table? Call Michelle Null, VP Escrow Operations, to learn more about this exciting new program.

Ready to refi?

Lenders and homeowners will want to hear about our fantastically low new refinance rates. Call today for a quote!

Why wait?

You can place your next title order now by clicking here.




 Visit MailChimp


We send special notices and tips to customers who have given us their
email address or who have signed up to use SureClose, Benchmark's new
FREE online transaction management system. You may opt out of receiving
these messages at any time.

Our mailing address is:
Benchmark Title Company, LLC
1124 Hartman Lane
Shiloh, IL 62221

Our telephone:

Copyright (C) 2007 Benchmark Title Company, LLC All rights reserved.

Forward this email to a friend.