A life estate, at common law is an estate in real property that ends at death.
Since it ends at death, and the owner of the life estate cannot leave it to his heirs or convey a larger interest in the land than what the owner actually owns, a life estate is not an estate of inheritance. Life estates are measured either by the life of the owner of the estate, or by the life of some other person; these latter are called life estates pur autre vie, Law French for "during someone else's life." The right to succeed to ownership of the property upon the expiration of the life estate is called a remainder .
The early common law did not recognize a life estate in personal property, but such interests were cognizable in equity. Thus, although life estates in real estate are still created today, the life estate is more commonly used in trust instruments, typically in an attempt to minimize the effect of the inheritance tax or other taxes on transfers of wealth.
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