SI KC01130.100 Equitable Home Ownership
See SI 01130.100
A. General Policy
Equitable home ownership is determined under the State law where the property is located. Previous Regional Attorney opinions provide guidelines for adjudicators to use in handling the most common and clearly recognizable situations. The most common type of equitable ownership involves life estates.
B. Written Agreement Reserving A Life Estate In Iowa, Kansas, Missouri And Nebraska
1. Deed or Will
When the terms of a life estate are specifically written in a deed or will, and the written intent of the parties to create a life estate appears clear to the adjudicator, a life estate should be found to exist. The file must be documented with a copy of the deed or will.
If the deed or will contains a provision limiting the right of the life tenant to possession of the property or restricting the life tenants power to alienate, charge or encumber the estate, the case must be processed in accordance with D. below.
2. Recorded Lifetime Lease
A written lifetime lease agreement that has been recorded with the appropriate land records office generally creates a life estate interest in the property so leased. Where there is a written and recorded lease that indicates the individual can live there for life or as long as they desire to live there, the adjudicator may find that a life estate exists. The file should be documented with a copy of the agreement. If the agreement does not indicate it was recorded, contact should be made with the land records office to verify recordation. This contact can be documented on a report of contact. Where the agreement has not been recorded, follow the development outlined in D. below.
If the lease contains a provision limiting the right of the life tenant to possession of the property or restricting the life tenant's power to alienate, charge, or encumber the estate, the case must be processed in accordance with D. below.
C. Oral Agreements For A Life Estate Interest
1. Iowa and Missouri
Iowa law provides that every conveyance of real estate passes all of the interest of the grantor, unless a contrary intent can be reasonably inferred from the deed. Under Missouri law, interests in real estate may be validly conveyed only in writing. Therefore, where an individual alleges an oral agreement for a life estate or right to live on a property (located in Missouri or Iowa) for life, the individual has NO ownership interest in the property and the adjudicator should make such a determination without further file documentation.
There may be an ownership interest in real property based on an oral agreement if there has been part performance of the agreement. If the facts of the case indicate part performance of the agreement, the case must be processed in accordance with D. below.
Note: If the individual requests reconsideration of this decision, follow D. below before issuing the reconsideration decision.
2. Kansas and Nebraska
Because Kansas and Nebraska laws are not as clear on oral agreements relative to property interests, allegations of oral agreements for ownership interests in property located in these two States must be processed in accordance with D. below.
D. Referral To Assistant Regional Commissioner - MOS
1. When To Refer
When ownership interest is material and the individual alleges he has a right to live on a property for life or as long as he wishes to do so, the pertinent case file materials must be referred to the Assistant Regional Commissioner-MOS, RSI/SSI Team, Attention: SSI Policy Staff, whenever the alleged right is based upon:
a. Any deed, will, or lease which contains a provision limiting the right of the life tenant to possession of the property, or the life tenant's power to alienate, charge, or encumber the estate.
b. Any unrecorded written lifetime lease or other written agreement.
c. Any oral agreement:
Prior to the initial decision for property in Kansas and Nebraska.
Prior to the reconsideration decision for property in Missouri and Iowa, or
Prior to the initial decision for property in Missouri and Iowa if the facts of the case indicate part performance of the oral agreement.
2. What To Submit
The following evidence should be submitted with all referrals to the ARC-MOS:
a. A photocopy of the deed or title.
b. A photocopy of the written agreement that purportedly gives a life estate (not required for an oral agreement).
c. A statement from the titleholder and SSI claimant regarding:
The terms of the agreement under which an interest was granted (not required for an already written agreement).
The circumstances that led to the agreement.
Who has paid the property taxes and upkeep.
Who, if anyone, has paid for major improvements to the property.
Whether the recipient would be allowed to live there if the titleholder sold the property.
d. If the titleholder refuses to submit a signed statement giving information specified above, the adjudicator will presume that the claimant does not have a life estate interest and no referral to the ARC-MOS is required.
Note: Whenever referral to the ARC-MOS is made and some SSI payment would be due regardless of whether an ownership interest exists, a partial award should be made (e.g., if an ownership interest is found, the individual would be due the full FBR, if no ownership interest is found the individuals payment would be reduced because of free rent. Pending the ARC-MOS decision, the adjudicator should make a partial award reducing the SSI payment for the free rent).
E. Miscellaneous Equitable Ownerships
In the past there have been occasional allegations of ownership interest because of:
Where allegations of ownership do not fit in any of the categories listed in B. or C. above, contact should be made with the SSI policy staff in the RSI/SSI Team for assistance in determining what, if anything, requires submittal.