It is not uncommon for a will to say that a particular person has the right to live in a home for that person's life. This is called giving a life tenancy (or also called life interest or life estate). Advice should always be sought as, depending on the wording, the right to use the property may cease if the life tenant no longer resides in the home. Alternatively the life tenant may have the right to use the home for the rest of her or his life, even if not residing in the home. This may allow the life tenant to rent the home to someone else and collect the rent payments.
A will generally says that a life tenant must pay rates, taxes and maintenance costs on the home. If these costs are not paid, another beneficiary may be able to apply to the Supreme Court which can order either that the costs are paid, or that the life tenancy be terminated.
At any time during the life tenancy the other beneficiaries and the life tenant may negotiate to terminate the life tenancy, usually with some payment to the life tenant. Alternatively if all the other beneficiaries agree, the home can be sold and another perhaps more suitable home may be purchased over which the life tenancy will continue. Legal advice should always be sought in these circumstances.
At the end of the life tenancy the home is dealt with according to what is stated in the will.
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