El Paso, TX asked in Estate Planning, Real Estate Law and Tax Law for Texas

Q: I have a lifetime estate for a house that is in mine and my mothers name.

She since has been diagnosed with lou body dementia and has had to be placed in a nursing home permanently. the home is paid off, how would I go about placing the home in my name only?

2 Lawyer Answers
John Cucci Jr.
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A: If you have a true "Life Estate" that was done by an attorney or person who knows what they are doing, then you must be patient.

A true "Life Estate" is where an owner of land, signs and files a deed that goes from:

Owner 1 hereby grants to Owner 1 for life, then to Owner 2.

What that means is your mother is the owner of the property until the day she passes. Then, by operation of law, the property become yours. That is the only way for you to get sole title. There would have been other options, however, you said she has dementia, and as such can not change the title or sign another deed, due to her mental disability.

I hope this helps.

Paul Premack
Paul Premack
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: To supplement John's answer --

You say your mother needs to go into a nursing home. If she can afford to pay for the nursing home from her own savings for the rest of her life, ignore this supplement. If she will need government assistance to pay for the nursing home, and will be applying for Medicaid, then you must be very careful about transferring any type of asset out of her name. Medicaid can disqualify her from receiving benefits if she makes a gift during her lifetime, the length of the disqualification being tied to the value transferred. If the life estate (homestead right) is in her name and you own the remainder interest (become owner upon her death) that arrangement may help avoid MERP (Medicaid Estate Recovery Program) upon her death, protecting the house from a repayment claim by Medicaid. However, if the life estate deed is a "standard" arrangement then, if it was signed by her within the last 5 years, it could be a transfer of value that causes a disqualification. The life estate should be "enhanced" with a clause that allows your mother to cancel your remainder interest at any time (we call this, informally, a "lady bird deed"). You need to talk with a qualified Elder Law Attorney in your area. To find one, visit the website of the Texas Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) at https://www.naela.org/TXNAELA/

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