Life Estates and Ladybird Deeds
During the first year of law school, students take some of the more important legal courses: Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure and Real Property. These are the topics everyone expects you to know about if you are an attorney, even if you never practice in these areas. As a student trying to master various complicated legal concepts, I sometimes thought to myself: “that concept is all well and good, and maybe it was relevant 200 years ago, but will it ever be applicable in today’s world?”
Take Real Property, one of the oldest areas of the law. Back in 11th Century England, when ownership of real property (land) by anyone other than the king was just beginning, what the lucky few landowners usually owned was a life estate interest in property. A life estate meant that you owned the land for as long as you lived, then ownership of the land reverted back to the king. Over time, life estate holders sought the ability to pass their interest in the land to their children, and perhaps even more radical, to sell the land to someone else during their lifetime. Fast forward to today.
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