Trusts & Estates Law/Life Estate


I am 86 years old, live in TN.  My husband died over 20 years ago and in his will left all property to me in a Life Estate. I can live in my home until I die and any income from the property comes to me as long as I am alive. When I die the Life Estate then goes to my two sons and then finally to my grandchildren who can sell it.

I am in trouble because one of my sons will not agree to sell the property and I am land poor - I have to pay land taxes ($4600.) on this property every year and the money left over helps me pay for the cost of living along with my social security.

I am now in poor physical health and it would help me tremendously if I could qualify for TennCare so I could get private duty sitters to help me. However with this Life Estate and the rental income (15,195. annually) I do not qualify for TennCare.

I don't even know what will happen if I have to go to the nursing home with this property tied up like this.

Can I sign this property over to my sons because I am no longer able to manage this property - can I sign it over to them to get TennCare or the help that I need?

Can you give me any advice to help me in this situation?

I'm very sorry for the delay in answering your question (I was not feeling well last week).

I am not admitted to practice law in Tennessee, so I don't know exactly how TennCare works.  It sounds like it might be similar to what we call "Medi-Cal" here in California.  If that is the case, then signing the property over to your sons will not qualify you for assistance.

The qualification rules for these types of programs vary significantly from state to state.  You need to speak to a TN attorney who is very familiar with how this particular program works.

There is an organization called "the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys" [ ].  Many of the lawyers who belong to that organization are familiar with these kinds of programs.  There are a number of attorneys listed on their website who are located in TN.  Perhaps one of them can assist you.

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Janet Brewer


BE CAREFUL about taking legal advice from non-lawyers.

I am a licensed attorney in California. I am available to answer questions about probating estates, preparing wills and trusts, administering estates and trusts, forming family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, and establishing a wide variety of estate and gift tax-sensitive trusts (charitable trusts, children's trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, etc.).

I can also answer questions regarding the preparation of estate tax returns (Form 706) in taxable estates. Please note that I do not prepare trust income tax returns and cannot provide you with any information about that type of return.

Please note: I am only able to practice law in the State of California. I cannot answer specific questions about other states' laws; I can only provide some "general" information that may or may not apply to your situation.


I have practiced California estate, gift-planning, and probate law exclusively since 1991. I am certified as a specialist in estate planning and probate law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization (there are less than 125 such specialists practicing in Santa Clara County and fewer than 7,000 practicing in California - out of over 170,000 lawyers statewide).

I have served as an Instructor in the CFP (certificate in financial planning) program at University of California Santa Cruz, teaching the estate planning segment.

Silicon Valley Bar Association
Wealth Counsel
Wealth Advisors' Forum
Executive Committee Member, Solo and Small Firm Section of the California State Bar (appointed to a 3 year term by the California State Bar Board of Governors)

I received my law degree (J.D.) from University of Denver Law School in 1975. I was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1975 and to the California Bar in 1977 (NOTE: although I am a member of the Colorado Bar, I am on INACTIVE status there). I earned an M.B.A. in 1982, and I earned a Masters Degree in Taxation Law (LLM) at Golden Gate University Law School in 2010 (with honors).

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Awards and Honors
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012 - chosen as a "SuperLawyer" - one of the top 5% of Northern California lawyers practicing in the estate planning and probate area ( Avvo Rating of 10.0/10.0

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