Life time rights to a home means that during her lifetime, the person with the life time rights has possession and control over the property only until her death. At death, the title to the land passes to some other person(s) known as the remainderman. The life tenant has certain obligations to the remainderman, including such things as paying property taxes and assessments, making ordinary repairs, and paying interest on any debt that encumbers the property. The life tenant must refrain from injuring or damaging the property. A good way to think of the obligation of the life tenant is that she must leave the property in substantially the same condition as it was when she took possession. The law also provides that the obligation of the life tenant can be modified by the document creating the life estate. In this case, the will stipulates that the life tenant will be responsible for upkeep, taxes, and insurance. This is very similar to the general requirements of the law regarding life estates. The word “upkeep” would probably include the legal obligation to make repairs and not damage the property.
A right to inspect the property is a complicated question. The life tenant has the right to possession, and thus could probably refuse entry to the remainderman unless there is some other issue involved. N.C. has numerous statutes that provide “entry” to the premises under certain conditions. Case law also provides for various remedies to the remainderman. The better practice would be to maintain some contact with the life tenant so that the condition of the property could be observed from time to time.
by: Richard Gabriel