Small house and keys on table with person signing papers in background.

What is a Life Estate?

Owning property and creating a home is a beautiful experience and an important part of life. When reflecting on everything you have done to earn and build up your home, you may realize that you have specific wishes for your property. Maybe you want your children to inhabit your home or have other family members care for it after your passing. However, this process isn’t as simple as just having a wish. To delegate your property appropriately, you must have a life estate or other documentation in place.

Circling Eagle Law is here to help navigate the complex process of creating a life estate. We will help explain what this documentation means and how there are nuances related to Tribal law.

Life Estates Defined

During the estate planning process, you should consider the creation of a life estate. Home or property owners sign a life estate to pass along ownership to another person. This is done while both individuals are living, meaning that the person signing the life estate still retains ownership of their property or home.

Life Estate Deeds

Within the life estate, there is a deed that explains the delegation and ownership of property. The property or homeowner has the right to full use of their property until they pass away. After this, the deed automatically transfers ownership of the property to the named beneficiary. This can help streamline the process of transferring property ownership, creating less work for family and loved ones in the long run.

Tribal Life Estates

The process for life estates differs slightly in terms of Native American Tribes and their lands. In 2004, the American Indian Probate Reform Act passed, dictating that specific beneficiaries cannot inherit undivided interests in Tribal trust properties. Instead, the act states that these individuals may receive a life estate for the home or property; furthermore, when Native lands are in trust funds, they must be passed to an eligible heir. Eligible heirs include immediate relatives such as parents, siblings, or children. The heir must also have Indian descent or also own part of the trust property.

Work With Experienced Attorneys

Regardless of your status as a member of a Tribe, navigating life estates is an overwhelming process. That’s why Circling Eagle Law is here to help. Understanding what constitutes a life estate is only the first step in creating one. Our experienced attorneys can walk you through the steps. Circling Eagle Law has an understanding of Tribal and family law, making us the right attorneys for you.


Contact our team today at (701) 401-7404 if you need estate planning assistance.

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