Updated on January 5, 2024
Article byPrakhar Gajendrakar
Edited byShreya Bansal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Remainderman Definition

Remainderman is a legal term that refers to a person entitled to receive the ownership of a property, generally a life estate, upon the death of the life tenant. Life estate’s typically a residential property that an individual owns, and upon death, it automatically gets transferred to the other person.


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American citizens commonly utilize this concept of a life estate to ensure a smooth transfer of the property to the next generation, thereby avoiding probate proceedings and the need to prove legal inheritance or present a will. In the case of their trust accounts, they are entitled to receive the remaining principal associated with the property or assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Remainderman’s meaning lies in an individual who will receive the ownership of a life estate’s property upon the life tenant’s death.
  • They are the third-party individual other than the estate’s initial holder, creator, or either’s heirs.
  • With cultural changes and modernization, most people define remainderman as ‘remainder person’, a more politically correct term.
  • It is widely used in the US to avoid probate and simplify the transfer of property and ownership, minimizing legalities and paperwork.

Remainderman Explained

Remainderman is a legal term used to describe the person who inherits ownership of a property, typically a residential home, after the death of the life tenant or owner. The life tenant is the individual who owns and occupies the property during their lifetime, hence the term “life tenant.”

The concept is associated with a life estate’s future interest and inheritance. It is commonly utilized to ensure that the property passes automatically to the rightful owner without the legal heirs needing to prove their entitlement through a will or probate. In a shared ownership scenario, where one person is the life tenant, and another is the remainderman, the latter holds a future interest in the property. According to real estate laws, the property is transferred to them upon the life tenant’s death.

The laws grant certain rights to the remainderman beneficiary, and the life tenant must maintain the property and make significant decisions related to the life estate after consulting and obtaining consent from them. However, there is a risk that the life tenant may neglect the property, attempt to sell or mortgage it without their knowledge, and fail to fulfill tax, insurance, and maintenance obligations.

Rights & Responsibilities

There are specific remainderman rights life estate that an individual has an interest in and must be aware of –

  1. They gain ownership rights to the property only after the life tenant’s death or when the life estate terminates.
  2. They have a clear interest in the property, and the life estate cannot be sold, mortgaged, or used for any other purposes without their knowledge and consent.
  3. They have the right to monitor and ensure that the life tenant is properly maintaining the property and fulfilling their obligations, such as paying taxes, insurance, and other associated expenses related to the property.
  4. Upon the life tenant’s death, the property automatically transfers to them, who can either retain the property or sell it as they see fit.
  5. They are not responsible for the property or the life tenant’s well-being during the life tenant’s lifetime.
  6. As a general responsibility, they can monitor the property’s condition to ensure no damages occur.
  7. They have the right to take legal action against the life tenant if they engage in activities that could diminish the property’s value or attempt to sell it without proper authorization.
  8. The property can be sold with mutual agreement before the life tenant’s death.

Remainderman And The Life Tenant

In a life estate arrangement, the roles of the life tenant and the remainderman are distinct, each holding specific rights and responsibilities concerning the property. Let’s explore their parts and the transfer of ownership as the life estate progresses.

  1. Remainderman is interested in the life estate, but the life tenant owns it until they die.
  2. They receive the property only after the death of a life tenant. On the contrary, a life tenant enjoys the ownership of the residence and uses it till they exist.
  3. Until a life tenant is alive, they have better rights and scope of responsibilities compared to a remainderman.
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Remainderman And Reversioner

While both share a future interest in the property, they diverge in the direction of ownership transfer and responsibilities. Let’s understand them.

  1. Remainderman shares a future interest in the life estate, but a reversioner has vested rights to a future estate.
  2. With remainderman, the ownership rights get transferred to a third party, but the rights go back to the original conveyance or grantor in reverse.
  3. Both share a future interest in the property but have specific laws and responsibilities per real estate laws.

Remainderman vs Beneficiary

In the context of real estate and trust arrangements, the remainderman and the beneficiary play vital roles in determining the distribution of assets. Let’s understand the differences between them.

  • Remainderman is an individual getting ownership rights upon the demise of a life tenant. In comparison, a beneficiary is someone who receives an advantage from something.
  • It is strictly related to real estate property and trust funds, but a beneficiary can benefit from the money, security, assets, etc.
  • In the case of the life estate, a remainderman is considered the beneficiary and will inherit any property remaining after the life tenant’s death.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Does a remainderman own the property?

A remainderman shares an ownership interest in the property or life estate, though the life tenant is considered the owner until they pass away. They are concerned that the life tenant does not sabotage the property, bring any damages, jeopardize its value, or try to sell it.

2. Can a remainderman be removed from the life estate?

No, they cannot be removed from the property or life estate without the signature and acceptance. For it to happen, they must sign a new deed mentioning the ownership transfer.

3. Can remainderman sell life estate?

They are free to sell their property interest, but the buyer would not receive full ownership of the property. In simple words, the buyer can have the remainderman’s interest, but only after the life tenant’s death, and till that time, the life tenant will retain the property use.

This has been a guide to Remainderman and its definition. Here, we compare it with beneficiary, life tenant, & reversioner, and explain its rights. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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