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Can a life estate deed be changed after one of the beneficiaries dies?

Bismarck, ND |

Mother created a life estate deed to keep her home and some land from possibly going to the state. One of my sisters passed with no estate plan and substantial debt. She was one of 4 names on the deed. Can the deed be changed to keep creditors from eventually getting proceeds from the sale of the home or forcing the sale of the land?

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Attorney answers 1


Unfortunately, the answer is, no. The deed to you and your siblings reserving a life estate effected an immediate gift of the remainder interest in the property to you and your siblings. Each of you now owns a part of the remainder interest which is subject now to the claims of your creditors.

The best solution to this problem would probably be for you and your siblings to purchase your sister's remainder interest from her estate. I take it that your mother is still alive, in which case the remainder interest owned by your sister's estate is worth a good deal less currently than it will be when your mother dies. The worth of the interest should be discounted to account for your mother's life estate and for your sister's fractional interest in the remainder.

You would best be served by consulting a probate attorney in your area in order to make sure that you comply with all formalities necessary to purchase the interest from your sister's estate and to have the interest properly valued by an appraiser with experience in fractional interest valuations.

Please be advised that the foregoing discussion is a generalized answer based upon incomplete facts and is not intended to serve as legal advice to you, nor should you regard it as an attorney-client communication or as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you desire legal advice concerning the situation you have described you should contact an attorney.