A lifetime right, formally known as a lifetime estate, is the designated right to own and use a piece of real property for the duration of an individual's lifetime. The grantee of a lifetime estate is known as a "life tenant" or an "owner-at-right," while the grantor is known as an "owner-at-fact."
A lifetime estate allows the true owner of real property to grant sole, exclusive use and control of the property to another individual without granting permanent ownership. The grantee becomes the owner for his lifetime, but the ownership reverts to the grantor upon the grantee's death.
Pur Autre Vie
One can grant lifetime rights "pur autre vie"-- literally, "for another's life" -- by designating someone else's lifetime as the duration. For example, a grantor can designate lifetime rights to a grantee for the duration of a disinterested third party's lifetime. Upon the third party's death, the grantee's ownership terminates.
An owner-at-right can sell, rent or otherwise transfer her interest in the lifetime estate to someone else. However, the new grantee can only retain the same interest as the owner-at-right, and the new grantee's ownership terminates fully upon the end of the specified lifetime.
In most cases, an owner-at-right cannot bequeath a lifetime estate to his beneficiaries. However, in a pur autre vie agreement, a beneficiary could inherit the owner-at-right's interest for the remainder of the designated lifetime.
- "Execution of Deeds;" Kenneth Reid; 2002.
- "The Structure of Property Law;" Ben McFarlane; 2008.
- "Estates and Trusts"; Joel C. Dobris; 2007.
Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.