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Retaining a Life Interest



Life interest in house and curtilage could be retained

Where the farmer retained a life interest in the dwelling house on the farm, and any surrounding land of up to 2 hectares (ie curtilage), the farmer was treated as a homeowner.    

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Effect of farmer vacating home

If the farmer later vacated the house, the value of the life interest will be assessed as an asset for pension purposes.

Effect of farmer relinquishing life interest

If the life interest is relinquished, the deprivation provisions will apply.    

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House and curtilage can be excised

If local zoning laws allowed, it was possible for the farmer to retain the principal residence by excising the house and curtilage from the remainder of the farm and retain ownership of that portion. This was permitted, provided that the area of land retained did not exceed the 2 hectare curtilage limit.

Leasehold over house and curtilage can be retained

Another option was for the farmer to retain leasehold over their house and curtilage, where the farm(s) was held under a pastoral lease. This was not to be confused with a common rental agreement - a qualifying farmer must have retained an interest in the house and curtilage, which gave him or her security of tenure. Where the delegate was satisfied that the farmer had retained reasonable security of tenure, the market value of the house and curtilage was disregarded in calculating the value of the farm and relevant farm assets.

Verification of life interest

There was no requirement for the life interest to be evidenced in writing. However, in most cases a qualifying farmer would have taken steps to protect his or her interest through some form of legal document.

Freehold interests can be verified by requesting a copy of the certificate of title. A leasehold interest was created by a written agreement between the eligible descendant and the qualifying farmer.

Homeowner assessments

Chapter 9.2

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Deprivation provisions

Chapter 9.6

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According to subsection 5P(1) of the VEA, a farm means any land that is used:

  • For the purposes of a farm enterprise; or
  • In connection with a farm enterprise.



Curtilage is the land adjacent to the exempt principal home.  A certain amount of curtilage is disregarded for the assets test.. The amount of curtilage that is exempt depends on whether the private land use test described in section 5LA(3) of the VEA, or the extended land use test described in section 5LA(4) of the VEA, is satisfied. Under the private land use test, up to two hectares on the same title as the principal home may be exempt. Under the extended land use test, all land on the same title as the principal home may be exempt.