Full Overview Of Remainders

In property law, the term “remainder” is of significant importance. It refers to a future interest that is granted to a third party after the termination of a prior estate, such as a life estate. At DLS Solicitors, we offer a comprehensive examination of remainders, exploring their types, creation, and legal implications. This overview aims to provide a thorough understanding of remainders and their role in property law.

Understanding Remainders


A remainder is a future interest in property that takes effect after the expiration of a preceding estate, which is usually a life estate or a term of years. The holder of a remainder, known as the remainderman, has a vested or contingent interest in the property that becomes possessory upon the termination of the prior estate.

Types of Remainders

Remainders can be broadly classified into two categories: vested remainders and contingent remainders.

  1. Vested Remainders: A vested remainder is a future interest that is certain to become possessory upon the termination of the prior estate. It is not subject to any condition precedent other than the natural expiration of the preceding estate. Vested remainders can be further subdivided into:
    • Indefeasibly Vested Remainders: These are remainders that are certain to become possessory and are not subject to any conditions or limitations that could divest them.
    • Vested Remainders Subject to Divestment: These are remainders that are vested but can be divested if a specified condition later occurs.
    • Vested Remainders Subject to Open: Also known as class gifts, these remainders are vested in a group of individuals, with the possibility that more individuals could join the class before the interest becomes possessory.
  2. Contingent Remainders: A contingent remainder is a future interest that depends on the occurrence of an uncertain event or condition precedent. The interest remains contingent until the condition is fulfilled or the event occurs. If the condition is not met, the contingent remainder may never become possessory.

Creation of Remainders

Methods of Creation

Remainders are typically created through conveyance, such as a deed or a will. The language used in the conveyance instrument is crucial in determining the type of remainder created. Phrases such as “to A for life, and then to B” create a remainder interest in B following the life estate of A.

Legal Requirements

For a remainder to be valid, it must meet certain legal requirements:

  1. Identifiable Grantee: The remainder must be granted to an identifiable person or class of persons. The interest cannot be granted to an indeterminate or unknown individual.
  2. Definite Commencement: The remainder must commence immediately upon the termination of the preceding estate. There should be no gap between the end of the prior estate and the beginning of the remainder interest.
  3. Compliance with the Rule Against Perpetuities: The remainder must comply with the rule against perpetuities, which requires that the interest must vest, if at all, within 21 years after the death of a relevant life in being at the time the interest was created.

Rights of the Remainder

The remainderman holds a future interest in the property, which confers certain rights and responsibilities:

  1. Right to Possession: The remainderman has the right to take possession of the property upon the expiration of the preceding estate. Until then, they hold a future interest that can be transferred or inherited.
  2. Right to Protect the Property: The remainderman has the right to take legal action to protect their future interest in the property. This includes actions against waste or damage caused by the current possessors of the property.
  3. Right to Transfer: The remainderman can transfer their interest in the property to another party. This transfer can occur through sale, gift, or inheritance.

Responsibilities of the Remainder

The remainderman also bears certain responsibilities:

  1. Respecting the Preceding Estate: The remainderman must respect the rights of the current possessor of the property. They cannot interfere with the possessory estate until it naturally terminates.
  2. Avoiding Waste: If the remainderman takes possession of the property, they must avoid committing waste, which refers to actions that would significantly reduce the value of the property.

Impact on Estate Planning

Remainders play a crucial role in estate planning, offering flexibility and control over the distribution of property.

  1. Providing for Multiple Beneficiaries: Remainders allow property owners to provide for multiple beneficiaries over time. For example, a property owner can grant a life estate to one beneficiary and a remainder interest to another, ensuring both are provided for.
  2. Tax Implications: The creation of remainders can have significant tax implications. Properly structured remainder interests can help in reducing estate taxes and managing the tax burden on beneficiaries.
  3. Asset Protection: Remainders can be used to protect assets from creditors. By placing property in a trust with remainder interests, the property can be shielded from claims against the life tenant or other possessors.

Contingent vs. Vested Remainders

One of the main challenges in dealing with remainders is determining whether the interest is vested or contingent. This distinction has significant legal implications, particularly in the context of the rule against perpetuities and the rights of the remainderman.

Rule Against Perpetuities

The rule against perpetuities is a legal doctrine that prevents the indefinite tying up of property interests. It stipulates that a future interest must vest, if at all, within 21 years after the death of a relevant life in being at the time the interest was created. This rule aims to ensure that property remains marketable and can be transferred freely over time.

Interpretation of Conveyance Language

The language used in the conveyance instrument is critical in determining the nature of the remainder. Courts often need to interpret the intent of the grantor and the specific wording used to establish whether a remainder is vested or contingent. Ambiguities in the language can lead to legal disputes that require judicial intervention to resolve.

Conflict Between Life Tenant and Remainderman

Conflicts can arise between the life tenant and the remainderman, particularly regarding the use and maintenance of the property. Life tenants may wish to use the property in ways that could diminish its value, while remaindermen have an interest in preserving the property’s value for their future possession. Legal mechanisms, such as injunctions and claims for waste, can be employed to address these conflicts.

Modification and Termination of Remainders

In certain situations, the terms of a remainder may need to be modified or terminated. This can occur through mutual agreement of the parties involved, court orders, or statutory provisions. For instance, changes in family circumstances or financial needs may necessitate altering the original terms of the remainder.

Practical Tips for Managing Remainders

For property owners, life tenants, and remaindermen, managing remainders effectively involves several practical considerations:

Clear Drafting of Documents

Ensuring that conveyance documents are clearly drafted is crucial in avoiding future disputes. The language should unambiguously define the nature of the remainder, the conditions attached to it, and the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.

Regular Review of Estate Plans

Estate plans should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they continue to meet the needs and circumstances of the beneficiaries. Changes in family dynamics, financial situations, and tax laws can impact the appropriateness of remainder interests.

Open Communication

Maintaining open communication between the life tenant and the remainderman can help in addressing potential conflicts. Both parties should be aware of their rights and responsibilities and work collaboratively to manage the property effectively.

Legal Advice

Seeking legal advice from qualified solicitors is essential in navigating the complexities of remainders. Solicitors can provide guidance on drafting documents, interpreting legal language, and resolving disputes that may arise.


Remainders play a crucial role in property law, providing flexibility and control over how property will be distributed in the future. It’s important to understand the different types of remainders, how they are created, and the legal implications they entail, especially for property owners, life tenants, and remaindermen.

At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to offering expert guidance and support in managing remainders to ensure the protection and effective administration of property interests. Whether you are planning your estate, managing a life tenancy, or holding a remainder interest, a thorough understanding of remainders is essential for navigating this complex but important area of property law.

Remainders FAQ'S

A remainder is a future interest in property that takes effect after the expiration of a prior estate, such as a life estate. It allows a person to have a future interest in property once the current interest ends.

A remainder is created by a deed or will. The document must specify the prior estate (such as a life estate) and clearly state the conditions under which the remainder interest will take effect.

A vested remainder is an interest that is certain to become possessory in the future, whereas a contingent remainder depends on the occurrence of an event or the satisfaction of a condition precedent.

Yes, a vested remainder can be transferred or sold. However, a contingent remainder can only be transferred if the contingency is likely to occur or if the interest is made transferable by statute.

When the person holding the life estate dies, the property interest passes to the person with the remainder interest, assuming all conditions have been met.

Yes, a remainder can be subject to conditions. If the conditions are not met, the remainder may not take effect, or it might pass to an alternative remainderman.

A remainder is a future interest given to a third party, whereas a reversion is a future interest that returns to the original grantor or their heirs after the expiration of the prior estate.

Yes, a vested remainder can be inherited by the remainderman’s heirs upon their death. A contingent remainder can also be inherited if the remainderman meets the conditions or the interest becomes vested.

For a remainder to be valid, it must be created in a legal document such as a deed or will, it must follow a prior estate, and it must be capable of taking effect upon the termination of the prior estate.

The holder of a life estate cannot directly alter or destroy the remainder interest, but they can affect the value of the property, such as through waste or neglect, which may impact the remainderman’s future interest.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 16th July 2024.

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