Dear Mr. Premack: My father left me land and a house in a Life Estate. He kept the right to live there till his death and any proceeds the land may incur such as lease money. He is not living on the property and I want to clear shrubs and trees from the land and use it for cattle. Can he stop me from using the land? – BM
From your description, it sounds like your father used a traditional Life Estate arrangement. Under it, Texas Law says that he retains all control, use and enjoyment of the property so long as he is alive. Texas Law further states that at the moment of his death, all those rights are transferred to you instantly. But so long as he is alive, Texas Law states your rights are extremely limited: you can veto the sale of the property and you are entitled to ownership upon his death. You have no right to enter the property without his consent. You have no right to clear shrubs and trees without his consent. You have no right to run cattle on the land without his consent. Thus, your best plan may be to seek his consent, and perhaps lease the land from him under an agreement that terminates at the moment of his passing.
Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.
Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, March 19, 2012