Is There any Statute of Limitations for a “Life Estate” Holder to Enforce Her Rights to Property in Tennessee?

Posted on Jan 26 2014 11:11PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

A recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision of Alma Long v. Raymond Creekmore, No. E2012-01453-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 1320515 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013) discussed whether there is a statute of limitations that is applicable to a life estate holder for a piece of real estate property in Tennessee.  In this case a dispute arose between mother (who held the life estate interest in the property) and her son.  A life estate interest is where an individual has a right to occupy and use a piece of property during their life.  It terminates upon their death.  The son received a conveyance of the property from the mother subject to her life estate interest in the property.  Various disputes arose between the mother and son over who should be able to live on and use the property.  Finally, in 2008 the mother filed suit to enforce her right to possession of the property during her life.  The son asserted a statute of limitations and laches defense to his mother’s claim (basically arguing it was too late for her to assert this claim).  The trial court dismissed the lawsuit by the mother and asserted it violated a ten year statute of limitations applicable to this type of action.


The Tennessee Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court.  The court found that a claim possessed by a life tenant against someone who exceeded her permission on the property is not subject to a statute of limitations.  The court specifically found, that “mother merely needed to assert her right as a life tenant and obtain a declaratory judgment when Son's use of the property exceeded her permission. Such a claim is not subject to a statute of limitations because a life tenant holds the property for the duration of his or her life.  Long at 4.  The court acknowledged the son may be able to prove he has a superior right to the property pursuant to other doctrines like the doctrine of adverse possession, however, the statute of limitations does not bar this claim.  Simply, there is no statute of limitations for this type of claim according to this case. 


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TAGS: Real Estate, Statute of Limitations
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
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