Man and woman standing and holding wooden house figure.

Are a Life Estate and a Will The Same?

Estate planning is not necessarily an easy process. There are many factors to consider and keep in mind when organizing your estate and how you wish for things to be handled if you are no longer capable. It is important that all necessary documents are in place to dictate your estate and wishes appropriately. For members of Native American Tribes, there are other things to keep in mind while planning out their estate.

Circling Eagle Law can help explain the intricacies of Tribal estate planning and the difference between specific documentation.

Having a Life Estate

Within the American Indian Probate Reform Act, it was dictated that Tribal members passing without a will are ensured a life estate for their loved ones still living on the property or in the home. It allows an individual to live in that home or reside on those specific lands up until the individual passes away. However, it is important to know that a life estate does not take the place of a will.

Do I Still Need a Will?

While it may seem as though a will is not necessary due to the establishment of life estates, this is not the case. A life estate is not a permanent delegation of property or assets and will only remain in effect up until your spouse or next eligible heir is alive. A will allows you to name a life estate in writing, as well as remaindermen, people who will take on the assets after the initial inheritor passes. This gives individuals in Tribal Lands the ability to keep property and homes in the family if desired.

Without a will in place, the American Indian Probate Reform Act states that surviving spouses will receive a life estate in each of your interests. However, you will not have the ability to name specific remaindermen. This means that a will is necessary, even with the American Indian Probate Reform Act in place.

Need Help Estate Planning?

This blog explains how a will and life estate are not one in the same. Instead, it is important to implement both in the estate planning process. An experienced Tribal law attorney can provide you with the assistance you need to have your estate in order. The team at Circling Eagle Law is ready to help you kick off estate planning today!


Call us at (701) 401-7404 to speak with our attorneys about estate planning today.

Take the First Step

Contact Us Today
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.