You may at some point in your life be fortunate enough to
inherit property in Jersey. Great, easy-peasy, just hand over the
keys and I'll be on my way. Actually it's not quite that
In Jersey there are two ways to inherit immovable property (land
and houses): either you are left them in a will or you inherit as
an heir. Either way there are some important considerations you
should be aware of, particularly if the will includes life
enjoyment or time-limited enjoyment granted to a third party.
The following example demonstrates some of the issues
Imagine your favourite uncle has passed away, leaving you his
rather smart farmhouse complete with orchard and a couple of acres.
You cannot move in to the place because he has also given enjoyment
of it to his mother-in-law, Delores. This sort of arrangement is
often granted as life enjoyment, but in our example let's say
that she has been granted enjoyment for just five years. You may or
may not know this woman, you may or may not like her, but both you
and she have certain responsibilities whilst she lives there.
Delores must act as a 'prudent householder' – she
must keep the interior of the property in a good state of repair,
must pay occupiers rates and buildings insurance. You as the owner
must carry out structural repairs so the house doesn't fall
down around Delores' ears.
You can demand an annual inspection of the interior, and if she
really has let the place deteriorate significantly you can even ask
the Royal Court to terminate the enjoyment, but you must nominate
an agent to act on your behalf; you are not allowed to carry out
the inspection yourself.
You can sell the property, but Delores will still be entitled
to her five years' enjoyment, so this will probably put off
prospective buyers. Delores can walk out before her five years are
up, but only if she has left everything in a good state of
The law does allow you and Delores to come to a financial
arrangement whereby you buy her out of her enjoyment of the
property, typically using actuaries to calculate a fair price.
As you might imagine, this sort of arrangement has caused a lot
of argument over the years, and there is plenty of case law around
what you and Delores can and cannot do, particularly with regard to
the land that comes with the property. She can draw benefits from
the land, but not damage or change the nature of it, so in our
example she can keep the apples, but cannot chop down the trees or
replace the orchard with a swimming pool. If she has planted crops
but has to leave before they are harvested, then legally they
belong to you. Similarly, if she has been renting out the house or
land, then this lease terminates when her enjoyment finishes.
It may be stating the obvious but it is strongly recommended, if
you inherit property over which someone else has a right of
enjoyment, you take legal advice so that you know your rights and
As originally appeared in Places magazine, October
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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