The Virginia Attorney General has opined that the exemption or deferral of real property taxes that is authorized in Art. X, §6(b), of the Virginia Constitution for persons not less than 65 years of age or disabled does not extend to a person who has placed title to the real property in any form of trust. Pursuant to the express terms of Art. X, §6(b), and §58.1-3210, eligibility for the tax exemption or deferral requires the subject property to be owned by the person who occupies it as his or her sole dwelling and who otherwise qualifies for the exemption by reason of age or disability. When title to real property is held by a trust, the incidents of ownership are with the trust and the trustee rather than the grantor or the beneficiary. Therefore, if real property is held in trust, an otherwise qualifying individual not less than 65 years of age or disabled will not meet the ownership requirement of Art. X, §6(b), and §58.1-3210.
The attorney general also opined that the exemption or deferral that is authorized in Art. X, §6(b), does extend to a person who otherwise qualifies for the exemption and who holds a life estate in the real property. In circumstances where the property is subject to a life estate, the Virginia Supreme Court has consistently found that the life tenant, having sufficient present control over the property, is the owner of the property for tax purposes. For the same reasons, the attorney general also concluded that the exemption for disabled veterans that is authorized in Art. X, §6-A, of the Virginia Constitution extends to a qualifying veteran who holds a life estate in the real property.
Opinion No. 13-070, Virginia Attorney General, December 27, 2013, ¶205-960