What Does "Pur Autre Vie" Mean?

C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz
Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In property law, pur autre vie describes the duration of a specific type of life estate typically created when a life estate holder conveys his or her interest to someone else. It is a French phrase meaning for the life of another, so a life estate pur autre vie would last as long as another’s life. For example, if person A holds a life estate measured by her own life and then sells or otherwise transfers her interest to person B for the rest of person C’s life, B now has a life estate pur autre vie. Person B’s estate ends when person C dies.

An estate includes a person’s legal rights, entitlements, and interests to any kind of property. A person who owns a house and the land it sits on actually owns a bundle of rights concerning the land and house. The ownership of an estate can be split into divisions of time; there can be one present owner and a designated future owner of one piece of property, for example. Duration is what distinguishes the different types of estates.

A life estate lasts only as long as the holder is alive. When the holder dies, the estate ends. A life estate holder is also called a life tenant and can designate a future owner who will take possession of the estate upon the holder’s death. This future owner retains a future interest in the life estate.

When the life of someone other than the life estate holder is used to measure the duration of the life estate, it is a life estate pur autre vie. The holder of a life estate pur autre vie can devise or allow it to pass to heirs by intestate succession. A regular life estate is not transmittable by will or capable of being transmitted from ancestors but can be alienated.

In the case of a life estate pur autre vie, the future interest that follows is either a reversion or a remainder. If John gives Bill his car for life, then John retains a reversion. When a third party holds the future interest, it is called a remainder. For example, John gives Bill his car for life and then to Mark. Mark, a third party, holds the future interest or remainder in John’s car.

There are several ways to create a life estate pur autre vie. Destroying a contingent remainder or a remainder not already vested can result in establishing a life estate pur autre vie, A contingent remainder is one that has been granted to an unborn person or is a remainder made contingent on some event other than the natural end of the preceding estate.

What Is an Example of Pur Autre Vie in Real Estate?

Being that the expression means ‘for another’s life,” a real estate transaction that goes by the lifespan of another individual. The designated person who holds the real estate investment is called a life tenant, but the difference between a life estate and a life estate pur autre vie means the individual is able to lease, mortgage or sell the property for the remaining timeline on the estate. The new parameters are for the duration of the other individual’s life. Here’s an example of how that would work.

Mr. Jones is a widower owning his own home but happens to fall in love with a widow named Mrs. Long. While they want to get married, Mrs. Long wants to remain living near her children. Mr. Jones doesn’t want to get rid of his home, but he doesn’t want to leave it sitting empty. He decides to let Mr. Johnson rent it out but bestows a life estate to Mr. Johnson.

When Mr. Jones, passes away, Mr. Johnson must leave the rental as the property reverts back to the estate. This is a life tenant situation. However, if Mr. Jones was to give an acre of his property to Mr. Johnson for Mrs. Long, then a pur autre vie is in place. Mr. Johnson retains an interest as long as Mrs. Long is alive.

Terms Concerning Pur Autre Vie

There are two terms that commonly come up with a pur autre vie. These are reversion and remainder.

Remainder

If there is a remainder in the real estate, there is a future interest in possession. An individual has the right to possess and own the home or land after the current tenant or fixed interest expires.

Reversion

In this case, the property or assets are returned to the original owner. This generally happens after a specific amount of time has passed or after a specific action has occurred.

Can a Life Estate Pur Autre Vie Be Devised?

A life tenant cannot establish a pur autre vie for the property they hold interest in. The original property owner must establish the life estate and any additional arrangements concerning a pur autre vie. There are several benefits to establishing a life estate deed:

  • No will requirement for property owners
  • Inexpensive and simple deed transfer
  • Peace of mind for the property owner
  • The situation offers guaranteed housing for friends or family of the property holder
  • Property transference can occur without gift tax
  • Medicaid lien protection for end-of-life care past 60 months

Can My Heirs Inherit an Estate Pur Autre Vie?

Being able to preserve your property for your kids is a wonderful gift but making sure the right people get the deed can be a complex process. During a life estate situation, specifications for surviving spousal interest have already been established. Many states have put in place the Uniform Probate Code, which presents the surviving spouse with elective interest in the property of the deceased. However, if the deed itself has been formed as a life estate deed, it bypasses any probate concerns. The pur autre vie can also be passed to other heirs as long as the designated recipient is still alive.

Homestead Estates

When considering preserving a piece of property for the family of the deceased, a homestead may be established. This is a life estate created to protect a family for so long as they live in the home. This is a protection against creditors and bankruptcy, as some states don’t allow a homestead to be sold (even to pay debt accounts). However, failing to pay real estate taxes or defaulting on other claims secured by the property can minimize the family’s claim.

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