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The Lady Bird Deed

This article concerns the life estate with power to convey, also termed a “Lady Bird Deed.” This is a form of tenancy that seems to throw many people. I aim to remove the mystery surrounding this tenancy.

The life estate with power to convey is created by deed.

To understand its function you need not look any further than its name. It is a life estate with power to convey. I will repeat this . . . it is a life estate with power to convey. If you say it enough times in rapid succession it will begin to sound like you have created your own rap song.

Creation by Deed:

Grantor: Mr. A, a single man

Grantee: Life Estate in favor of Mr. A, with an absolute power to convey, sell, mortgage, lease, or otherwise dispose of the property described above in fee simple, during his lifetime, without joinder by the remainderman.

*The following recital will be displayed within the body of the deed: If the property is not previously disposed of, prior to the death of Mr. A, then the property shall be conveyed to Mrs. D, in fee simple absolute.

Note: The interest of Mrs. D is that of a contingent remainder. Why?

Answer: There is a condition precedent to Mrs. D taking title. That condition is that Mr. A must die without having disposed of his interest in the land. Upon his death, without the property having been conveyed, the interest of Mrs. D would convert to a fee simple absolute.

The intent of the life estate with power to convey is this: It acts as an estate planning vehicle in which the life tenant can leave the property to his intended remainderman upon his death, while simultaneously affording the life tenant complete freedom to transfer or finance a fee simple interest.

It is the responsibility of the title examiner to determine the existence of a life estate with power to convey.

Once established, there are only two questions to ask. First, is the life tenant selling? If so, we can stop right there, as the life tenant will convey fee simple.

Second, is the contingent remainderman selling? If so, the original life tenant has died, rendering the contingent remainderman the fee simple owner.

**The following 2 scenarios depict how the Lady Bird holding plays out in real life.

Scenario #1

Owner: A

Subsequently, A conveys to

A, with an absolute power to convey, sell, mortgage, lease, or otherwise dispose of the property described above in fee simple, during A’s lifetime, without joinder by the remainderman.

If the property is not previously disposed of, prior to the death of the grantee, then the property shall be conveyed to B and C, as joint tenants.

A then signs a Purchase Agreement to sell to Mr. and Mrs. Title.

A can freely sign the deed to Mr. and Mrs. Title, free of the interests of B and C, the contingent remainderman.

After the conveyance from A, the new owner is: Mr. and Mrs. Title, in fee simple.

Scenario #2 

Owner: A

Subsequently, A conveys to

 

A, with an absolute power to convey, sell, mortgage, lease, or otherwise dispose of the property described above in fee simple, during A’s lifetime, without joinder by the remainderman.

If the property is not previously disposed of, prior to the death of the grantee, then the property shall be conveyed to B and C, as joint tenants.

B and C then sign a Purchase Agreement to sell to Mr. and Mrs. Title.

A has died without having conveyed its interest.

B and C are now the owners in fee simple, as the contingency of the Lady Bird Deed was satisfied — A had not conveyed its interest, prior to death.

The title company would require the Death Certificate of A be recorded.

Subsequently, B and C, as joint tenants, would convey fee simple title to Mr. and Mrs. Title.

As repeatedly discussed, the life tenant in the life estate with power to convey has full and absolute power to convey or mortgage a fee simple interest. Once you understand this, property transactions involving a Lady Bird holding are greatly simplified. The mystery will be evaporated.


A ball is placed in the middle of a basketball court. Bill and Paul are placed at the end of the court. Upon the firing of the starter’s pistol, Bill and Paul will race to see who gets possession of the ball. No holds barred. Who wins?

Answer: the person more determined.

Dave Phillips
The Examiner

DPexaminer LLC
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