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In a life estate, can a remainderman sue the tenant for yard maintenance that he did and was never paid for?

Summerton, SC |

My mother made me the only remainderman to her life estate property. My two brothers haven't lifted a finger to help with any of her care. They are now, after 5 years, trying to sew me to get her house. This is a quite large estate that I have kept up by myself for the past 5 years. Based on estimates that I have received, her cost for the upkeep would have been about $9,500.00/year. She asked me to keep this up for her. Can I sew her for these costs and put a mechanics lien on her house?

My mother lives in a house beside me. Four years ago she gave me her full power of attorney. My two brothers have had her declared mentally incompitene. They are trying to get guardianship and put her in a nursing home, against her will.

Attorney Answers 3


I will assume in answering this question that your mother signed and recorded a deed retaining a life estate in her name, but named you as the sole remainderman. This makes you the current owner of the property subject to your mother's right to reside in the property for the rest of her life. When your mother passes away, you will be able to sell the house, live in it yourself, or lease it to a tenant. Until her death, however, your mother can occupy the property without being evicted or forced to move, and without having to pay any of the maintenance expenses.

Under those circumstances, you canot file a mechanic's lien against the property since you are
an owner of the property. Also, as the owner, you are responsible for maintaining the property and the grounds. So, it is my opinion that you cannot sue your mother for the cost of the upkeep and mainteance.

I do not know how your brothers are interfering, but if your mother has a life estate by deed that is recorded as a public record, and you are the sole remainderman, I do not know how your brothers believe they could affect your title and interest to the real estate.

If there is no publicly recorded document in which your mother retained a life estate and named you as the sole remainderman, then my opinion could be very different based upon how your mother is the life tenant and you are the remainderman for this property.

I strongly recommend that you consult with a knowledgeable real estate or probate attorney to confirm the information you have stated regarding your mother's life estate and your legal status as the sole remainderman.

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Whether your brothers are successful in getting guardianship or not, it is unlikely that they will be able to overturn the deed that was signed. They can try to otherwise make you miserable. But that is a whole new story.

As to your ability to now charge for your services, if you had signed a written caregiver contract or similar contract, then you would be in a much stronger position to argue. I do not believe you have any right to impose a mechanic's lien.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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I believe you may have a remedy the others may not have thought of.

While you have no contract, you CAN sue for equitable restitution. This remedy does not require a contract.

The down-side is that few attorneys are truly educated in the full power of restitution, so you may need to do some searching. Restitution has only recently started appearing on bar exams and is an extremely underutilized remedy.

Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC

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