What does it mean if I give someone a “life interest” in my Estate?

If, say, you wish to ensure that your partner is adequately provided for but feel you have a duty towards, say, children of an earlier marriage, then you may wish to consider giving your partner a “life interest” in your Estate; your Will will include a life interest trust of your share in a property and/or the whole estate.  This restricts the partner’s inheritance to the income only of your monetary assets and the use of your home.  On the death of your partner the capital will pass to whoever you have specified in your Will, e.g. your children.  You should, however, bear in mind that unless the Estate is fairly large, the income may be insufficient to support your partner.  Alternatively, a more flexible life interest could be given to your partner that doesn’t restrict access to the capital.  Obviously, the capital can be spent leaving little or nothing to pass to children when your partner dies.  When considering a gift of a life interest, it is very important to remember that the recipient does not own the property in the trust and cannot dispose of it in his or her Will.  However, also note that when the person to whom a life interest has been given dies, the value of the assets in the life interest trust will be included in their taxable estate.

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