Life estates, also known as life interests, are a well-established part of estate planning. The owner of a life estate (“the life tenant”) has the right to occupy, use and deal with real and/or personal property for his or her lifetime. Determining the value of life estate land can be done with the help of a professional, but this post will help you get an idea for yourself.
How Life Estates Work
When the life tenant dies, the remaining interest in the property then passes to the next person entitled, historically named the “remainder man”. The interest remaining after the death of the life tenant is called the “remainder interest”. After the death of the life tenant, the remainder man enjoys full ownership of the life estate land or property.
A life interest in property has a value that can be determined by an actuarial calculation done by a professional actuary.
Calculating the Value of Life Estate Land
The purpose of this commentary is to simply give an overview of the process as well as an example. It should not be followed as any sort of professional opinion as to how to calculate such interests.
The formula consists of taking the date of birth of the life tenant as at the date of the creation of the life estate, rounded off to the nearest year, then comparing the age to an actuarial table to determine the”life tenant factor”. Then multiplying that number by the market value of the life estate land in which the subject life interest is being created to calculate the value of the life interest.
That figure in turn is subtracted from the market value of the land to calculate the value of the remainder interest (The life interest plus the remainder interest must equal the total market value of the land being transferred).
Here’s an example of calculating life estate land value:
Pam aged 77 is the sole registered owner of land valued at $185,000.
Pam decides to transfer this land to her son for $80,000, subject to a reservation of a life interest in it for herself.
Referring to actuarial tables, Pam’s life tenant factor is calculated as a female aged 77 years giving her a life tenant factor of .38603
The value of the life interest is $185,000 x .38603 = $71,415
Therefore, the value of the remainder interest is $185,000 – $71,415, = $113,585
Further reading on life estates
Life Estate Can Be Partitioned