Life estate gives you the right to live in your property during your lifetime. You may choose to grant your life estate to someone else, in which case you become the grantor. The person granted the life estate is the tenant and his ownership ends upon death. Upon the tenant's death, the property goes back to the grantor or someone else the grantor designates. In Texas, laws provide clarity around abandoned life estates.
A person's understanding of the term "abandonment" may be different from the legal term and can lead to confusion. A person may believe that just because a property is not being used, it is abandoned. Legally, however, according to Texas law, this is not the case. By law, for the life estate to be considered abandoned, the property must be intentionally relinquished by the owners with no intent to return to repossess the property and without vesting ownership to another person.
When a person wants to claim that a life estate has been abandoned in Texas, he must be able to prove the intent to abandon the estate with satisfactory evidence. Showing that a property is not being used will not suffice in court to prove abandonment. The court must see a definite act showing the owner's intent to abandon the property with facts of the length of time the property has not been used with no explanation.
A family member may want to prove abandonment to be able to claim the life estate. To prove abandonment in Texas, the family member must show that the owner intended to permanently abandon the property. For example, failure by the owner to maintain and repair the property over a period of time is admissible evidence. A spouse trying to prove abandonment of a property has become more difficult after the amended Texas Constitution in 1997. Under the amendment, the law requires both the spouse and the owner to consent to the abandonment of the property.
Loss of Title
When a person abandons his life estate, under the laws of Texas, all rights and interest in property may be lost, but not the title. Title can only be lost by forced sale if a sheriff sells the property because of overdue taxes. Or, a trustee of the property may sell it for past-due mortgage payments. Similarly, the property's homeowners association may sell it for unpaid assessments.