Hi Cindy and All:

This question was actually addressed and answered by the Vermont Supreme Court back in 1953 in Brattleboro v. Smith, 117 Vt. 425.

Smith had a remainder interest in property on which Pratt had a life interest.

The Brattleboro listers listed the property to the remainderman (Smith) and Smith refused to pay. Smith told the town to collect the money from Pratt, the life tenant.

The taxes went delinquent and Smith sued. The lawsuit turned on the Court's interpretation of 32 VSA Section 3651, which states: "taxable real estate shall be set in the list to the last owner or possessor thereof on April 1 of each year...."

Smith claimed the tax could only be assessed against Pratt because Pratt was the possessor and owner during the pendency of the life estate.

The Court disagreed.

Looking to the purpose of the tax administration statutes, the Court reasoned that the Legislature intended the listing of property to be "...as simple and easy as possible for the listers [as evidenced by the Legislature's] use of the unqualified word 'owner' so that the listers could properly list property to any person who was owner within the generally accepted meaning of that word."

Since both the remainderman and the life tenant are owners within the generally accepted meaning of the word, the upshot is that listers can list a property that is subject to a life interest to either the life tenant or the remainderman.

Which should listers do? Generally, I think they should list irks property to the life tenant since it is the life tenant who has use of the property during the tax year. HOWEVER, that is only a default position. The listers should be willing to list the property to the remainderman if that is the wish of the parties and/or it is more likely he/she will pay the taxes.

In any event, as Mary Jane Grace indicated, the taxes need to go to the person listed on the grand list. If the owners want to switch the mail address of the tax recipient, all they have to do is send the listers notice of a new address. See 32 VSA section 4111 (e).

Hope that helps.

Best regards,


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On Aug 11, 2010, at 3:10 PM, Cindy Carlson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I am wondering how other towns handle life estates for the purpose of a mailing address on the grand list and tax bills.  We have been asked by a parent who has put his property in a life estate to mail the tax bill to him and not his daughter who apparently doesn’t open mail from our town.  The listers are telling me they have to use the address for the daughter on the grand list and we can’t use the parents mailing address.  I would expect the name stays in the life estate, but why couldn’t the mailing address be in care of the parents?


Cindy Carlson

Town Clerk / Treasurer

Select Board Assistant

Town of Middlesex

5 Church Street

Middlesex, VT 05602


(802) 223-5915 - Phone

(802) 223-1298 - Fax