My real estate encylopedia defines a life estate: "a grantor, in a deed or will, may grant an interest in the lands to someone for a lifetime period. That interest will cease on the death of the named individual: for example, "to Jones for his life". The grantor may specify rights or obligations that affect the life tenancy, e.g. use of the land, limitations on alterations and/or improvements, and payments of usual expenses such as taxes and maintenance. This type of estate often arises under the terms of a will". The land may be leased, with rents going to the life tenant, but the lease will terminate upon the life tenant's death. The life tenant may not "commit waste" and therefore as an example, cannot cut down trees except for general maintenance. A life estate is a comparatively low cost encumbrance on a title, to allow for benefits to a life tenant, put a protective encumbrance on title, and still control where the title goes upon the death of the life tenant. Your lawyer is a good source of information for your own personal planning.