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Ask The lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

| September 6, 2016

Dan Gwinn New Head ShotQUESTION: I’ve lived with my partner for 10 years. She moved into a house I already owned. An issue has recently come up about the house. She wants to be put on the title. I understand that if something were to happen to me that she would want the security of staying in the home we share, however, I have a daughter who I’ve always planned to leave the house to. I have never acquired much in the way of wealth but there is $100k equity in the home and I want to leave it to my daughter.  I’ve made that clear.  Am I in the right with this?

ANSWER: Your emotional ties of loyalty with your partner and your child, must, of course, be part of your analysis in deciding your best course of action. As for the legal choices available to you, one option you should consider would be to grant your partner a life estate in your property. This would give your partner, who would be called a “life tenant” the right to live in the residence until she dies or moves out.  Your daughter would be the remainderman/ owner of the house, but she would not get full rights until your partner’s interest ends. By setting up a life estate, you can ensure your partner may continue to live in the home after your death, but she will have no rights of ownership. In effect, she becomes a tenant, and your daughter becomes the landlord (except, that she may not charge rent).

Generally the life tenant is responsible for paying the mortgage, interest, taxes, and insurance on the property, and must not “waste” the property, meaning he/she must keep the property in good repair. The remaindermen may not dispose or encumber the property in a way that would be at odds with the interests of the life tenant (and vice versa). As a bonus, transferring ownership via a life estate will avoid probate.

Creating a life tenancy, whether by deed or trust, has advantages and potential issues that extend beyond this discussion. You might want to explore both the pros and cons, along with any other options that may be available to you with your lawyer. The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

See Dear Christine’s Answer

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile

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