Category: Real Estate

Owning a Second Home creates Unique Tax Implications

Owning a Second Home creates Unique Tax Implications

Many people dream of owning a cabin or a sunny beach house away from their homes. While these dreams are beautiful, buying a second home isn’t as simple as picking a new getaway. Your second home can increase your tax burden more than your first. Owning a second home creates unique tax implications to keep in mind. According to Central Trust, understanding the strings attached to a second home is a must.

If you already own one home, purchasing a second means doubling up on property tax bills. Your deductions for state and local taxes are also capped at $10,000. State taxes on your primary home often reach that limit on their own. As a result, a second home may increase your tax liability much more than you’d expect. While you can deduct mortgage payments on your second home, it’s limited to a combined total of $750,000 for both residences.

There are tax benefits if you plan to rent and limit personal use to 14 days or 10% of rental days. Doing so allows you to deduct utilities, maintenance and improvement costs as you would for any other rental property. However, be careful – renting to relatives at market rate still counts as personal use.

When selling your primary residence, you can usually exclude a portion of the gains from taxes. However, this isn’t the case with a second home. Your vacation house is taxed as an investment property, which means capital gains can go up to 23.8%.

However, there’s a way to avoid paying capital gains tax on your second home. You may avoid capital gains tax if you live in it as your primary residence for at least two of the five years before you sell. Considering the average home price in America today, a lower tax rate can amount to impressive savings.

On the other hand, lost rental revenue or an increased cost of living could detract from these savings. Weigh the costs and benefits before choosing your tax management strategy.

Maintaining solid records is crucial if you’re renting out a second home. If the IRS audits your return and you can’t provide evidence, you could face extra taxes and penalties. Keep receipts, bills and documents detailing any expenses related to the property. If you plan to avoid capital gains tax by living in the home, keep proof of your residence and travel during the time in question.

The thrill of buying a second home should not overshadow the importance of thorough estate planning. Consult a tax professional or financial advisor to avoid costly mistakes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Double the Taxes: Owning a second home brings a second set of property tax and mortgage interest bills.
  • Rental Benefits: Renting out your vacation home could offer tax deductions.
  • Capital Gains Tax: Selling a second home could subject you to up to 23.8% capital gains tax. Living there for two of five years before selling can help avoid this.
  • Record Keeping is Essential: Proper documentation of expenses and rental income is crucial to avoid penalties in case of an IRS audit.
  • Consult an Advisor: Seek guidance from tax or estate planning professionals to create a sound plan and minimize tax implications.

Owning a second home creates unique tax implications that can cause a headache for your estate planning. Discuss the topics in this post with your estate planning attorney before you purchase that dream second home. If you would like to learn more about tax planning for real property, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Centraltrust (March 2024) “Second Homes & Tax Implications – Central Trust Company”

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Understanding Your Options and Responsibilities when Inheriting a House

Understanding Your Options and Responsibilities when Inheriting a House

Understanding your options and responsibilities is critical when inheriting a house, whether you sell it, keep it, or rent it out. Insights from LendingTree show you how to make the most of your inheritance. Inheriting a house can be a life-changing event with emotional and financial implications.

When inheriting a house, you don’t immediately receive the title in your name. The inheritance process involves probate, where a judge reviews the will and appoints an executor to carry out the deceased’s will. The executor handles responsibilities like insurance, identifying debts or liens and paying utilities. They also distribute belongings and manage property taxes. This ensures that the estate’s assets settle any outstanding debts before you receive ownership.

When you’re in line to inherit a home, there are five steps you should take immediately.

  1. Communicate with the Executor: Establish a clear line of communication with the executor. This will help you learn the necessary information and simplify the transfer process.
  2. Coordinate with Co-Heirs: Work with the others if you are one of several heirs. Avoid costly disputes by deciding whether to sell, keep, or rent the property.
  3. Get an Appraisal: An appraisal calculates the property’s value. This informs your decision to keep, sell, or rent the home while informing you of tax liabilities.
  4. Evaluate Debts: Identify any liens or debts tied to the property and compare them against the house’s value. Understand the financial implications and incorporate that into your decision.
  5. Seek Professional Advice: Consult estate planning attorneys, accountants and financial advisors. These professionals can clarify ownership-related problems, such as debt obligations and inheritance taxes.

Moving into the inherited house can provide a new residence or vacation home. However, this option can be costly due to mortgages, taxes, repairs and insurance. Renting out the property can provide passive income, while keeping it in the family. Buy out other heirs or work with them to share costs and rental income. Selling the house is a straightforward way to obtain immediate cash. The proceeds can help pay off debts tied to the house, and the remaining proceeds will go to the heirs.

If debts and taxes are associated with the house, that doesn’t mean you need to sell. There are many ways to finance the home and keep your inheritance.

  • Mortgage Assumption: Take over the existing mortgage if its terms are better than what you’d get with a new loan. The lender must approve the assumption.
  • New Purchase or Refinance Mortgage: You can obtain a new mortgage or refinance to put the house in your name. This option is particularly useful when the property has a reverse mortgage.Prop
  • Cash-Out Refinance: Refinance the mortgage with a cash-out option to tap into the home’s equity to cover expenses, like buying out heirs or making repairs.
  • Investment Property Loan: Mortgage an investment property if you plan to rent the house.

Key Takeaways:

  • Inheriting a House: The probate court oversees the inheritance process, and the executor handles legal and financial responsibilities.
  • Options: Move in, rent out, or sell the property based on financial goals and agreements with co-heirs.
  • Financing: Explore mortgage assumptions, new or refinanced mortgages and other financing options.

Understanding your options and responsibilities when inheriting a house requires legal, financial and practical knowledge. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as you can. If you would like to learn more about inheriting property, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: LendingTree (Nov. 16, 2021) “Inheriting a House? Here’s What to Expect”

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Senior Property Tax Exemption can provide Relief

Senior Property Tax Exemption can provide Relief

Estate planning and elder law attorneys often help retirees face unique challenges, such as how to afford their property’s rising values and real estate taxes on a fixed income. However, there’s good news: several states offer a senior property tax exemption, which can provide much-needed relief. Based on The Mortgage Reports’ article, “Property Tax Exemption for Seniors: What Is It and How to Claim It,” we look closely at the exemption and if it might work for you.

Only proactive seniors who ask their state, county, or city agency about tax breaks know if their state has a property tax exemption and if they qualify. The states with tax exemptions for homeowners ages 65 and older, like New York or Washington, likely won’t tell you if you qualify. If your state offers this tax break, claiming it is simpler than you might think.

What exactly are senior property tax exemptions? These exemptions are a lifeline for individuals aged 65 or older, reducing the burden of property taxes on their wallets. While property taxes are notoriously unpopular, especially among retirees on fixed incomes, these exemptions offer hope. The exemption helps seniors on fixed incomes by reducing the property value on which homeowners at least 65 years of age pay taxes. The tax rate remains the same for everyone: the reduced taxable value of property or properties. In some states, your tax exemption increases as you age.

States that offer a property exemption can reduce taxes based on a percentage or dollar amount. The amount seniors save varies by location, what they qualify for and their property value.

Senior property tax exemptions vary by state. In most states, you must meet minimum age requirements and prove that you occupy the home as your primary residence. The minimum age threshold varies from state to state, ranging from 61 to 65.  Income limit requirements also often exist. A higher income might disqualify you or reduce your exemption.

To claim your exemption, you must apply with your local tax office. Deadlines vary, so make sure to check your state’s requirements. Most states have websites where you can find the necessary forms and instructions.

Each state has its own set of rules and benefits regarding senior property tax exemptions. Some counties offer additional tax savings. By working with a local estate planning or elder law attorney, you can incorporate additional tax-saving strategies into your estate plan. Understanding your local rules and taking advantage of any available exemptions is essential.

The senior property tax exemption can provide much-needed tax relief for fixed-income budgets. By understanding the eligibility criteria, filing on time, and exploring state-specific benefits, you can lighten the burden of property taxes and enjoy a more financially secure retirement. If you would like to learn more about property taxes and estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Mortgage Reports (Jan 29, 2024) “Property Tax Exemption for Seniors: What It Is and How to Claim It.

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The Complexities of Co-Owning a Vacation Home

The Complexities of Co-Owning a Vacation Home

Dreaming of a vacation home you can escape to at any moment is wonderful. However, the reality of co-owning that slice of paradise with friends or family might be more complicated than you think, explains Better Homes and Garden’s article, “What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Vacation Home with Friends or Family.” Let’s dive into the complexities and considerations of co-owning a vacation home, inspired by insights from experts in the field.

Co-owning a vacation home often starts with a dream shared among friends or family. It’s an appealing idea, especially when the cost of owning a vacation spot on your own seems out of reach. The idea of pooling resources to afford a better, more luxurious property in a prime location is tempting. It promises a place to stay and a shared investment, potentially increasing in value over time.

The main attraction of co-owning is financial efficiency. You can access better properties in desirable locations without shouldering the entire financial burden alone. It allows more frequent visits to your favorite vacation spot and turns an otherwise unreachable dream into a tangible reality. Owning a property with others can also create deeper bonds and shared memories that last a lifetime.

However, with the benefits come significant risks and potential pitfalls. Co-ownership can lead to financial disputes, disagreements over property use, maintenance responsibilities and even conflicts about the property’s future. What happens if one owner wants out of their part of the property or if one owner passes away unexpectedly? What if personal circumstances change, affecting

Before jumping into co-ownership, having detailed conversations about every aspect of the property’s future is crucial. Discussing and agreeing on a budget, usage schedules, guests, pets and even decor can prevent misunderstandings down the line. It’s also wise to consider legal structures, like becoming tenants in common or forming an LLC, to manage the property, ensuring that all agreements are in writing to protect everyone involved.

Getting legal advice from an estate, real estate, or business attorney when considering purchasing joint-owned property is essential. A trusted attorney can help draft a comprehensive co-ownership contract with your friend or family member that outlines each owner’s rights, responsibilities, financial commitments and the procedures for resolving disputes or selling shares in the property. This agreement safeguards your financial interest in the vacation home, ensuring that it remains a source of joy rather than a cause of strife.

Co-owning a vacation home offers a unique opportunity to make your dream of a getaway spot a reality. However, it’s not without its challenges. By prioritizing open communication, financial clarity and professional legal advice, you can navigate the complexities of co-ownership. Remember, the goal is to create a space that enhances your life and relationships, not one that leads to unnecessary stress or conflict. Your estate planning attorney will help you fully grasp the complexities of co-owning a vacation home. If you are interested in learning more about managing real property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Better Homes and Gardens (June 29, 2023) “What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Vacation Home with Friends or Family”

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Pitfalls of Adding a Child to Your Home's Deed

Pitfalls of Adding a Child to Your Home’s Deed

As an estate planning attorney, I’ve witnessed many parents consider adding a child to the deed of their home with good intentions. They often view this as a simple strategy to ensure that their property seamlessly passes to their children without the complexities of probate. However, this well-intentioned move can lead to numerous unexpected complications and financial burdens. This article explains the pitfalls of adding a child to your home’s deed might not be the optimal choice for your estate plan.

To begin, let’s clarify what it means to add a child to the deed of your home. By doing this, you are legally transferring partial ownership rights to your child. This action is commonly perceived as a method to circumvent probate. However, it is imperative to understand that it also entails relinquishing a degree of control over your asset.

When you add your child to the deed, you are not just avoiding probate; you are creating a co-ownership situation. This means your child gains legal rights over the property, equal to yours. Such a shift in ownership can have significant legal ramifications, particularly if you need to make decisions about the property in the future.

Avoiding probate is often cited as the primary reason for adding a child to a home’s deed. Probate can be a lengthy and sometimes costly process. However, it’s essential to weigh these concerns against the potential risks and challenges of joint ownership. Probate avoidance, while seemingly beneficial, does not always equate to the most advantageous approach. The process of probate also serves to clear debts and distribute assets in a legally structured manner. By bypassing this process, you might be opening the door to more complicated legal and financial issues in the future.

One of the most overlooked aspects of adding a child to your deed is the gift tax implications. The IRS views this act as a gift. It’s important to understand that the IRS has established specific rules regarding gifts. If the value of your property interest exceeds the gift tax exclusion limit, you might be required to file a gift tax return. This could potentially lead to a significant tax liability, an aspect often not considered in the initial decision-making process.

The loss of control over your property is a critical consideration. Once your child becomes a co-owner, they have equal say in decisions regarding the property. This change can affect your ability to sell or refinance the property and can become particularly problematic if your child encounters financial issues. In a co-ownership scenario, if your child faces legal or financial troubles, your property could be at risk. Creditors might target your home for your child’s debts, and in the case of a child’s divorce, the property might become part of a marital settlement. Adding a child to your deed can inadvertently lead to family disputes and legal challenges, especially if you have more than one child. Equal distribution of assets is often a key consideration in estate planning to maintain family harmony.

A significant financial consideration is the potential capital gains tax burden for your child. When a property is inherited, it usually benefits from a step-up in basis, which can significantly reduce capital gains tax when the property is eventually sold. However, this is not the case when a child is added to a deed. Without the step-up in basis, if your child sells the property, they may face a substantial capital gains tax based on the difference between the selling price and the original purchase price. This tax burden can be considerably higher than if they had inherited the property.

There are several alternatives to adding a child to your home’s deed. Creating a living trust, for instance, allows you to maintain control over your property while also ensuring a smooth transition of assets to your beneficiaries. A living trust provides the flexibility of controlling your assets while you’re alive and ensures they are distributed according to your wishes upon your death. This approach can also offer the benefit of avoiding probate without the downsides of directly adding a child to your deed.

Given the complexities and potential pitfalls of adding a child to your home’s deed, seeking professional legal advice is essential. An experienced estate planning attorney can help navigate these complexities and tailor a plan that aligns with your specific needs and goals.

While adding a child to your home’s deed might seem straightforward to manage your estate, it’s fraught with potential problems and complications. It’s vital to consider all the implications and seek professional guidance to ensure your estate plan is effective, efficient and aligned with your long-term intentions. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

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A QPRT is a unique financial tool

A QPRT is a unique financial tool

A Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT) is a unique financial tool used in estate planning to reduce the potential estate tax liability by transferring a principal residence or vacation home into a trust. As an irrevocable type of trust, a QPRT allows the grantor to remain in the home for a predetermined term of years, making it a strategic choice for those looking to manage their estate tax effectively. Learn more about QPRTs.

In the realm of estate planning, QPRTs serve a dual purpose. They provide a mechanism to transfer a residence at a reduced tax cost, while ensuring that the property remains part of the family legacy. This is particularly advantageous in the context of rising real estate values and the corresponding increase in estate tax liabilities.

The structure of a Qualified Personal Residence Trust is centered around its ability to freeze the value of the residence at the time of the transfer to the trust. When a residence is transferred into a QPRT, its value for gift tax purposes is determined at that time. This is beneficial if the property appreciates in value over the trust term, since the appreciation occurs outside the grantor’s taxable estate.

Furthermore, the trust term is a critical component of a QPRT. It is during this period that the grantor retains the right to live in the home. The length of the trust term can significantly impact the tax benefits of the QPRT, making it essential to choose a term that aligns with the grantor’s estate planning objectives. American Bar Association’s insights on estate planning.

One of the primary benefits of using a QPRT in estate planning is the potential for significant estate tax savings. Transferring a residence into a QPRT removes the property from the grantor’s taxable estate, potentially leading to lower estate taxes upon the grantor’s death.

In addition to estate tax advantages, a QPRT also offers protection for the principal residence. This ensures that the residence can be passed down to beneficiaries, typically the grantor’s children, at a reduced tax cost. It’s a strategic way to preserve a valuable family asset for future generations, while minimizing the estate tax burden.

Creating a Qualified Personal Residence Trust involves a few key steps. The first step is to determine the value of the residence, which will be based on its fair market value at the time of the transfer. This valuation is crucial for calculating the gift tax implications of the transfer.

Choosing the right trust term for your QPRT is equally important. The term should be long enough to offer substantial tax benefits but not so long that the grantor is unlikely to outlive it. If the grantor does not outlive the trust term, the residence reverts back to the estate, negating the tax benefits. Guidance from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.

When using a QPRT for your primary residence, it’s important to understand the rules surrounding occupancy. During the trust term, the grantor has the right to live in the home. This right is crucial, as it allows the grantor to continue enjoying their home while reaping the trust’s benefits.

Transferring your primary residence to a QPRT can be a smart estate planning move. It allows you to reduce your taxable estate, while maintaining your lifestyle. However, it’s essential to comply with all the trust requirements to ensure that the tax benefits are realized.

A QPRT can also be used effectively for a secondary or vacation home. The same principles apply: the home is transferred into the trust, potentially reducing estate taxes while allowing continued use of the property during the trust term.

However, there are some specific considerations when using a QPRT for a vacation home. Since these properties are often not the primary residence, it’s essential to understand how the trust will affect your use of the property and any potential rental income.

Understanding the tax implications of a QPRT is crucial. For estate tax purposes, the transfer of the residence to the QPRT is treated as a gift, but the grantor’s retained interest reduces the value of the gift in the property. This can lead to significant gift tax savings.

Income tax considerations are also important. The grantor of a QPRT typically continues to pay the property taxes and can deduct these payments on their personal income tax return. This arrangement can be beneficial from an income tax perspective.

What happens at the end of the QPRT term is a critical aspect of the trust. If the grantor outlives the term, the property is transferred to the beneficiaries, typically without additional estate or gift taxes. This is the ideal scenario, since it maximizes the tax benefits of the QPRT.

If the grantor wishes to continue living in the home after the trust term expires, they can lease it from the trust beneficiaries. This arrangement allows the grantor to remain in the home, while ensuring the property remains outside their taxable estate.

At the end of the QPRT term, there may be opportunities to further estate planning objectives by transitioning the property to another trust. This could involve creating a new trust that continues to hold the property for the benefit of family members, providing ongoing estate planning advantages.

This transition is a strategic move that can ensure the continued protection of the property and further estate tax savings. However, it requires careful planning and adherence to tax laws and regulations.

In conclusion, a QPRT is a unique financial tool to minimize estate taxes while protecting your primary or secondary residence. A QPRT can be a powerful tool in your estate planning arsenal by carefully selecting the trust term and understanding the tax implications.

If you’re considering a QPRT as part of your estate plan or have questions about how this type of trust could benefit you, contact our law firm today. Our experienced estate planning attorneys are here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your estate plan is tailored to your unique needs and goals. If you would like to learn more about different types of trusts, please visit our previous posts. 

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Houses make horrible Wealth Transfer Vehicles

Houses make horrible Wealth Transfer Vehicles

Houses make for horrible wealth transfer vehicles. Bequeathing a house can mean passing along financial burdens, red tape, home maintenance responsibilities, potential family conflict and housing market volatility, says Kiplinger’s recent article, “Your Home Would Be a Terrible Inheritance for Your Kids.”

Communication about plans is critical. A study from Money & Family found that 68% of homeowners plan to leave a home or property to heirs. However, 56% haven’t told them about their plans. That will surprise the recipients who may or may not want or be able to service an inherited home.

Suppose you bequeath a house to an heir or heirs. In that case, they’ll have to make an immediate plan for home maintenance, mortgage payments (if necessary), utilities, property taxes, repairs and homeowners’ insurance. Zillow says this can amount to as much as $9,400 annually, not including mortgage payments.

The psychology of the home. Owners often have deep emotional attachments to their homes. Therefore, when people gift their homes to children and heirs, they’re not just giving an asset — they’re endowing them with all the good memories that were made on that property. Emotional connections to the home can be nearly as powerful as a strong attachment to a living being.

Beneficiaries may struggle to make practical choices about the inherited property because of the home’s sentimental value. This emotional aspect can cloud judgment and hinder the effective management and allocation of assets.

The financial burdens and family conflicts for beneficiaries. Inheriting a home entails a range of financial responsibilities that can quickly add up.

Property taxes, insurance premiums, ongoing maintenance costs and unexpected repairs can strain beneficiaries’ financial resources dramatically. If beneficiaries already have their own homes, inheriting an additional property can exacerbate financial burdens and potentially hinder their own financial goals, retirement plans and aspirations. The passing of a family member can also sometimes lead to conflicts among heirs, potentially exacerbating existing fractures in relationships among siblings and other family members. These are just a few reasons why houses make for horrible wealth transfer vehicles.

According to a 2018 study, nearly half (44%) of respondents saw family strife during an estate settlement. Disagreements can cause tension, strain relationships and even result in lengthy legal battles. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

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Lady Bird Deed is a Tool to transfer Real Property outside of Probate

Lady Bird Deed is a Tool to transfer Real Property outside of Probate

Enhanced life estate deeds, also called Lady Bird deeds, can be a great tool to transfer ownership of real property at death outside of probate. This type of deed got its nickname when President Lyndon B. Johnson used one to convey property to his wife, Lady Bird.

Florida Today’s recent article entitled, “Real estate transfers: Is a ‘Lady Bird deed’ right for me?” explains that Lady Bird deeds are a type of life estate deed designed to automatically transfer property ownership upon the death of the original owner to another individual. However, they don’t require the original owner to give up use, control, or ownership of the property while alive.

The beneficial receiver of the property upon death doesn’t get any immediate rights or ownership interests in the property. Their consent isn’t needed to sell, convey, or change the use of the property while the original owner is alive. The Lady Bird deed is rendered obsolete if the original owner sells or conveys the property in their lifetime. However, if the original owner passes away, the property subject to the Lady Bird deed is automatically conveyed to the beneficial recipient without needing to pass through probate.

With a traditional Life Estate deed, the original owner must give up control when adding a beneficial recipient. This means the original owner is prohibited from selling, conveying, or encumbering the property without explicit consent from the beneficial recipient. The original owner also can’t change or end a traditional Life Estate deed without consent from the beneficial recipient.

Here are the benefits of a Lady Bird deed:

  • Properties can be conveyed at death without having to pass through probate.
  • The original owner remains in full control of the property while they’re alive.
  • Recording a Lady Bird deed doesn’t impact the current owner’s homestead protection and exemptions.
  • Any property subject to a Lady Bird deed doesn’t violate Medicaid’s five-year look-back period and isn’t subject to gifting taxes or penalties, since the beneficial owner doesn’t immediately possess any ownership rights.

Here are the downsides of a Lady Bird deed:

  • Doesn’t circumvent the Florida statute that requires homestead property to be conveyed first to a surviving spouse or minor children.
  • Doesn’t protect non-homestead properties from any judgment liens issued against the original owner during their lifetime.

A Lady Bird deed can be an effective tool to transfer real property outside of probate. However, as in any real estate transaction or estate planning endeavor, it is necessary to have a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to discuss your desired outcome and best course of action for your specific situation. If you would like to learn more about real property and estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Florida Today (June 9, 2023) “Real estate transfers: Is a ‘Lady Bird deed’ right for me?”

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Avoid Pitfalls when Transferring Property to Heirs

Avoid Pitfalls when Transferring Property to Heirs

It is not difficult to ensure the smooth transfer of ownership of your property to a spouse, children, or other heirs, as long as you have an estate plan created by an experienced estate planning attorney and know what pitfalls to avoid. Most importantly, you want to avoid these pitfalls when transferring property to heirs, says the article “I’m a Financial Planner: Here Are 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid When Transferring Property to Heirs” from GoBankingRates.  If you die without a will, your state’s intestate succession or next-of-kin laws will determine who inherits your house if yours was the only name on the deed.

Next-of-kin succession varies by state, but for the most part, the priority order is first the surviving spouse, biological and adopted children, parents, and siblings, followed by grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and extended family members.

You’ll want to know how your state treats intestate property to avoid unwanted surprises for your family. For instance, in some states, full siblings are prioritized over half-siblings, while in other states, they are treated equally.

The biggest mistake is dying without a will and an updated deed. In some states, the property will need to go through probate if the surviving heir is not in co-ownership of the house, regardless of what’s stated in the will.

The solution is simple. Add an adult child or the person you intend to be your executor to the property’s deed via a warranty or quit claim deed. This prevents the family home from going through probate and seamlessly transfers to the individual you want to handle your estate after you’ve passed. In particular, this should be done once one spouse in a joint-owning couple dies.

There are four general types of property ownership. The legal system treats them all differently. They are property with the right of survivorship, property held in a trust, property subject to a will and property for which the spouse does not have a will.

If two spouses purchase and jointly own a property, the right of survivorship dictates that the surviving spouse automatically receives the decedent’s half and becomes the sole owner. This is the simplest and easiest outcome, since it avoids probate and the need to alter the deed. However, it’s not always the case.

A surviving spouse might need to change their deed if a partner dies and the deed didn’t automatically transfer property after death. If only one spouse was on the deed, they may have to go through probate (if there was a will) to transfer the home into the surviving spouse’s name. The spouse may need to file a survivorship affidavit and a copy of the death certificate to ensure that the title is properly in their name.

Should you transfer property while you’re still living? It may solve some problems but create others. If a primary residence is transferred to an adult child and they sell it not as their primary residence, it could lead to a large capital gains tax bill. However, if the child inherits the property after your death, the heir will enjoy a stepped-up tax basis and avoids capital gains taxation.

Before taking any steps to arrange for the transfer of the home after passing, talk with the person or people to make sure they want it and the responsibilities associated with owning a home. This is especially true if there’s more than one heir with different opinions.

If children don’t get along or are in different financial positions, leaving one property for all of them to manage together could lead to family fights. Talk with them before putting your wishes into your estate plan to avoid unnecessary resentment and, in the worst case, litigation. Working with an estate planning attorney can help you avoid these pitfalls when transferring property to heirs. If you would like to learn more about property management in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: GoBankingRates (July 26, 2023) “I’m a Financial Planner: Here Are 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid When Transferring Property to Heirs”

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Life Estate can be a Cost Effective Option

Life Estate can be a Cost Effective Option

A life estate can be a cost effective option for couples. The person who holds the life estate is known as the life tenant. He or she is entitled to live in and use the properly as they see fit. However, they don’t have the right to sell or transfer the property to someone else.

Realty Biz News’ recent article entitled, “What is a Life Estate and How to Use It,” explains that a recorded deed will reference that a property is a life estate and name the life tenant. Once the life tenant passes away, the property passes to the remainderman—those who will inherit the property after the life estate ends. Let’s look at some of the reasons why someone might want to have a life estate:

Estate Planning. By transferring property into a life estate, the original owner can ensure that the property will pass to a designated beneficiary without probate. It can be particularly useful for people who want to avoid the time, expense and complexity or the probate process.

Asset Protection. The original owner can protect the property from creditors and other potential liabilities by transferring the property into a life estate. This is useful for those in high-risk professions or with significant debts or legal issues.

Family Dynamics. A life estate can also be used to address family dynamics and ensure that everyone is taken care of. For example, a parent might create a life estate to ensure that their adult child can live in the family home for the remainder of their life without giving them outright ownership of the property.

Tax Planning. By transferring property into a life estate, the original owner can reduce their taxable estate and potentially lower their estate tax liability. This can benefit individuals with large estates who want to minimize their heirs’ tax burden.

When a life estate is created, the property is divided into two parts:

  1. the life estate; and
  2. the remainder interest.

The life tenant has the right to use and enjoy the property during their lifetime. The remainderman has the right to inherit the property after the life estate ends.

Remember, with a life estate; the ownership is broken down into possession and ownership. The life tenant has possession and ownership until they pass away; the remainderman has ownership only. When the life tenant passes away, the property passes to the remainderman, who becomes the new owner. The remainderman has the right to sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of the property as they see fit. Speak with your estate planning attorney to see if a life estate can be a cost effective option for your family’s planning. If you would like to learn more about life estates, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Realty Biz News (March 20, 2023) “What is a Life Estate and How to Use It”

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