A life estate can be terminated because of the tenant’s waste.
Plaintiff Scarboroughs purchased a 16.59-acre tract of land by warranty deed from defendant Dillie McIntyre, with a reservation of a life estate in Ms. McIntyre in 1.2 acres. The plaintiffs brought a petition 6 years later to establish title and to terminate the life estate and subsequently moved for summary judgment, asserting that: (1) the defendant ceased occupying the tract as a personal residence in violation of the warranty deed, and (2) committed waste by failing to maintain the property and improvements thereon. They had not seen Ms. McIntyre on the property since 1990, there was no water or gas service to the mobile home, no mailbox, and the structure was in a state of dilapidation. In response, Ms. McIntyre offered her own affidavit in which she stated that she is now 90 years of age, that she had been recently unable to occupy her residence due to health problems, and that she was in the process of renovating her home to make it fit for habitation.
Can a life tenant’s waste of their property be cause for termination of the life estate?
The Court agreed with the trial court that she forfeited her interest to the remaindermen and that they are entitled to immediate possession because the evidence conclusively established that the life tenant failed to exercise ordinary care for the preservation of the property, we agree with the trial court. Ms. McIntyre failed to pay her property taxes, which was not the ordinary care a prudent person should exercise for its protection and preservation, and the Court found this as one element of a forfeiture proceeding.