Category: Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Estate Planning issues in Multigenerational Homes

Estate Planning issues in Multigenerational Homes

Multigenerational planning is common today, where grandparents, parents, and children live in the same home. Estate planning issues can arise in multigenerational homes where grandparents, parents and children all reside, as explained in the recent article from Kiplinger, “How to Handle Estate Planning for Multigenerational Living Arrangements.”

For instance, if a grandparent pays for a separate apartment on their child’s property, who owns the apartment? What if an adult child living with elderly parents pays for updates on the property or provides caregiving services to the parents? Should these arrangements lead to unequal inheritances? All of these issues can be addressed through estate planning.

The first issue to address is home ownership. Should the title be taken jointly, as tenants in common, with a life estate, in trust, as a family partnership, or in some other manner? Which family members are allowed to live in the home? And again, how will this arrangement impact inheritances?

For many families, using a trust to detail all aspects of use and ownership is the best solution. The trust document can address everything, including the right of first refusal, language governing who has priority to buy the property upon the death of the parents, equalization language between beneficiaries to account for gifts to certain family members during life, and tax provisions to ensure beneficiaries pay applicable taxes, equally or proportionally.

The trust may also be used to address the incapacity or death of a family member and what will happen to the property for future generations. The level of detail can be extremely important when dealing with multigenerational shared real estate purchases and uses.

For some families, an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) or LLP (Limited Liability Partnership) allows for easier fractional property ownership. LLCs and LLPs also help with asset protection and maintaining privacy.

An LLC operating agreement specifies which members will be in charge of the daily operation of the property, payment of expenses, and how ownership interests are divided. Intrafamily loans can be leveraged to pay for improvements on the property, and the agreement can be used to address many different scenarios for the family.

If one child provides care for an aging parent, or a grandparent provides regular daycare for working parents, should these arrangements be monetized and factored into the estate plan? What about a sibling who does not live in the home and does not provide any care for elderly parents or young children? There is no one answer for these or the many other situations arising from multigenerational living arrangements.

An experienced estate planning attorney can ensure your documents align with your wishes and address these estate planning issues in unique, multigenerational homes. Often, having a professional in the room when mapping out a plan can alleviate some family dynamics, making these matters less emotional. If you would like to learn more about estate planning for large, multigenerational families, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (June 29, 2023) “How to Handle Estate Planning for Multigenerational Living Arrangements”

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Family Vacation Home need Planning for Future

As terrific as it may be to have a family vacation home, the same reasons it’s a wonderful thing can make it one of the most complex assets to pass to future generations. Everything’s great when the parents are alive and well. Still, over time this changes, as explained in a recent article, “Do family vacation homes foster closeness or animosity?” from The Press-Enterprise. The family vacation homes needs planning if you want it to be around for future generations to love and enjoy.

When parents are relatively young and hosting their children and visitors, life at the family vacation home is easy. Everyone knows the routines of the day, who cooks, who cleans, who is in charge of the barbeque, and where the best swimming is. Parents envision their children’s children coming every summer and enjoying the same relaxed bonding experience.

But life changes, especially as generations pass on. Leaving the family vacation home to all children in equal shares in a will or even in a trust could be a prescription for a family disaster. An idyllic place could turn into a family feud.

Who will be in charge of the vacation home? The eldest child, or the one who lives closest to it? Is one child wealthier than the others and more able to shoulder the costs of maintaining a second home? And as grandchildren grow up and have families of their own, deciding who will have access to the house during peak summer weeks can become acrimonious.

Start by having a family conversation to determine if the children (and grandchildren, if appropriate) want the vacation home to remain in the family. Do they all want it, and how do they expect to use it? Are they considering tearing it down and building a larger home, or could it become rental property?

If only one child wants the home, do they want to inherit it instead of receiving any other inheritance? Are there enough assets to equalize the gift? If not, you could give the child who wants the property the right to buy it from the others or your trust upon your death.

If more than one child is interested in the property, you’ll want to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to plan the property’s future.

Any time more than one person is going to own a property together, they need to have an agreement detailing the rights and obligations of co-ownership. If the decision is made to keep the vacation home in the family, it may be best to leave it in a trust with specific terms for the use of the property, naming a trustee to manage the trust—one or two people, but not everyone in the family. The trust language must address how and when the property can be sold, who will pay for property taxes, utilities, minor and major repairs, and the terms for passing the property through generations.

If the family decides they’d prefer the property to become a rental property to generate income, consider putting it into a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each of the heirs may have a membership interest in the LLC, one is designated as a manager, and an operating agreement is created to set out the terms for selling or otherwise transferring a membership interest.

An asset as special as a family vacation home needs and deserves planning for the future. Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a plan for the future, then go and enjoy your time with the family. If you would like to learn more about managing real property in an estate plan, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Press-Enterprise (July 2, 2023) “Do family vacation homes foster closeness or animosity?”

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LLCs can be a useful Tool in your Estate Planning

LLCs can be a useful Tool in your Estate Planning

LLCs can be a useful tool in your estate planning. Limited liability companies, or LLCs, are used in estate planning to achieve estate tax savings and consolidate asset management, according to a recent article, “Estate Planning With Limited Liability Companies: Transfers of Business Interests as a Planning Opportunity,” from The National Law Review.

In many cases, the LLC is used as a business entity to facilitate gifting or transfers to children, often at discounted values, reducing the value of the donor’s assets, ultimately subject to gift and estate taxation. There are also non-tax benefits, as a properly structured LLC insulates owners from liability and provides an organizational control mechanism.

As a “manager-managed” entity, the management functions and authority over the LLC rests in designated or elected managers, as opposed to owners, also known as “members.” Separating management from ownership transfers some of the asset’s economic benefits, while retaining control over operations. Limiting managerial or voting rights also justifies using valuation discounts for the membership interests who lack control over the company, presenting a tax-planning opportunity.

An LLC offers several benefits:

  • A streamlined method of transferring ownership
  • Creating a structure for centralized management, control, and succession
  • Preserving family ownership through rights of purchase and first refusal
  • Establishing procedures to resolve internal family disputes
  • Gaining protection of LLC assets from claims asserted against owners
  • Gaining protection of owner assets from claims asserted against the LLC

Significant tax savings can be achieved through lifetime gifts of LLC interests because of valuation discounting and removing future appreciation from the donor’s estate. In addition, if transfers are made to trusts for the children, it may be possible to achieve even further benefits, including increased protection against lawsuits, dissolving marriages, and future estate taxes.

These are complex transactions requiring the knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney and careful vetting by tax advisors. One downside to lifetime gifting: unlike assets passing as part of an estate, gifted assets do not receive a basis adjustment for income tax purposes at the time of the donor’s death. Another downside is that the donor generally cannot benefit economically from the assets after they are transferred. However, if the donor is concerned about divesting themselves of the transferred assets and the income, the transfer could be structured as a sale rather than a gift to provide increased cash flow back to the transferor.

A final note: if the LLC is not operated consistently with the entity’s non-tax business purposes, it may be vulnerable to attack by the IRS or third parties, undermining its benefits for estate tax planning and limited liability protection. The entity must be managed to support its valid business purpose as a legitimate enterprise. Remember, LLCs can be a useful tool for your estate planning, but only if it is properly created and maintained. If you would like to learn more about LLCs and business planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The National Law Review (May 19, 2023) “Estate Planning With Limited Liability Companies: Transfers of Business Interests as a Planning Opportunity”

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Corporate Transparency Act May Impact Estate Planning

Corporate Transparency Act May Impact Estate Planning

A recent federal law, the Corporate Transparency Act may have a have an impact on your estate planning. The law mandates reporting to the government that may affect many of those who’ve done estate planning, asset protection planning, or own real estate. Forbes’s recent article entitled “Corporate Transparency Act Affects Your Estate Plan” explains that, while users of this information are supposed to be carefully limited to governing agencies, its breadth and disclosures, may seem invasive.

The goal of the new legislation is to wade through the entity formalities and find out who truly owns the company and its assets. The Act is part of a growing worldwide effort to thwart illegal activities, including tax evasion, money-laundering, tax fraud and other financial crimes.

This type of reporting is new to the U.S. The rules are quite different than anything that’s been around in the past. The law is designed to have the U.S. catch up to the reporting standards common in other developed countries. These reporting requirements are very different from tax returns.

The CTA reporting requirements could affect the owners or principals behind or involved in almost all business entities. This includes limited liability companies (LLCs), corporations, limited partnerships and other closely held entities. Most of the entities created as part of your planning may be subjected to the new rules:

  • Investment planning might include forming a holding company to aggregate securities and other investments. A small business or a rental real estate property are typically segregated into separate entities to avoid a domino effect, if there is a lawsuit involving the underlying asset.
  • Your estate plan might include the creation of one or more LLCs designed to hold other assets or even other entities to facilitate trust funding or trust administration. A family limited partnership might be created to hold investment assets for management or estate tax valuation discount purposes.
  • If you’re doing asset protection planning, an experienced estate planning attorney may help you to form different entities to insulate the underlying assets from claims of creditors.

Experts say there could be more than 30 million entities that will be required to file. Work closely with your estate planning attorney to see how the corporate transparency act may impact your estate planning. If you would like to learn more about the LLCs and business planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 26, 2023) “Corporate Transparency Act Affects Your Estate Plan”

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Estate Planning is a Personal Process

Estate Planning is a Personal Process

It’s a question that some couples should ask. For many, their estate is their estate together, right? Not always. There are benefits to using the same estate planning attorney. However, there may be reasons to use different attorneys, as discussed in the article “Should My Spouse and I Hire the Same Estate Lawyer?” from The Street. When it comes down to it, estate planning is a personal process.

If your estates are relatively simple and your interests are the same, it does make sense to use the same estate planning attorney. If there’s no need for sophisticated tax planning, yours is a first marriage with no children, or you own one piece of property, one attorney can represent both partners.

It’s important to understand joint representation. This means both partners and the attorney agree to share all information learned from one spouse with the other spouse. These terms are often outlined in the engagement letter signed when the attorney is retained.

However, life and marriages are not always so simple. Let’s say that one spouse owns property or a share of property in another state purchased before the marriage and not co-owned with the spouse. This often occurs when property is owned by members of the spouse’s immediate family, like a business property or a vacation home they own jointly with siblings or parents. It may also be property one spouse is likely to inherit with the expectation the property ownership remains solely with bloodline family members.

Note that owning property in another state will likely also require the services of another estate planning attorney who is familiar with the local laws. The out-of-state attorney can advise if there are any special planning considerations needed, such as placing property in a family-controlled entity, like a limited liability company or other family partnership.

Coordinating communication between the out-of-state attorney and the primary in-state attorney will be important, since there may be interrelated planning considerations to be addressed in wills or trusts.

What if you and your spouse have different communication styles? One wants a talkative attorney who wants to dive into long-term planning goals, engaging in discussions about building a legacy, while the other wants documents prepared, signed and executed, minus any big picture conversations.

A simple solution would be for each spouse to identify an attorney at the same firm who matches their personal style.

Another reason for using different estate planning attorneys is if one wants to use a “floating spouse” provision, which can cause some feelings to arise. This is a provision defining a “spouse” as the person you are married to at the time of death. If there’s a divorce and the prior spouse would have had a vested interest in property, the floating spouse provision affords another layer of protection to keep assets to the spouse at the time of death.

There are non-divorce related reasons for the floating spouse provision. If an irrevocable trust is created to benefit the spouse, the ability to make changes to the trust can be challenging, time consuming and costly. With a floating spouse provision, the prior spouse is removed as a beneficiary and the new spouse could be easily substituted. In this case, independent counsel is advised, as interests are considered legally adverse.

Estate planning is a personal process and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If any part of the estate creates adverse interests, joint representation may not work. However, when the estate is relatively simple and the couple’s goals are the same, having a spouse by your side during the planning process could give each of you the incentive to take care of this very important task. If you would like to learn more about estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: The Street (Nov. 30, 2022) “Should My Spouse and I Hire the Same Estate Lawyer?”

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Business Interests are better Protected by Trusts

Business Interests are better Protected by Trusts

Once your business grows, so does the pressure to make good financial decisions in the short and long term. When you think about the future, estate and succession planning emerge as two major concerns. You’re not just considering balance sheets, profits and losses, but your family and what will happen to them and your business when you’re not around. This thinking leads to what seems like a great idea: transferring stock or LLC membership units to one or more of your adult children. There are benefits, especially the ability to avoid a 40% estate tax and other benefits. However, there are also lots of ways this can go sideways, fast. Your business interests are better protected by trusts established to benefit your family.

Executing due diligence and creating an exit plan to minimize taxes and successfully transfer the business takes planning and, even harder, removing emotions from the plan to make a good decision.

An outright transfer of stock or ownership units can expose you and your business to risk. Even if your children are Ivy-league MBA grads, with track records of great decision making and caring for you and your spouse, this transaction offers zero protection and all risk for you. What could go wrong?

  • An in-law (one you may not have even met yet) could try to place a claim on the business and move it away from the family.
  • Creditors could seize assets from the children, entirely likely if their future holds legal or financial problems—or if they have such problems now and haven’t shared them with you.
  • Assets could go into your children’s estates, which reintroduces exposure to estate taxes.

No family is immune from any of these situations, and if you ask your estate planning attorney, you’ll hear as many horror stories as you can tolerate.

Trusts are a solution. Thoughtfully crafted for your unique situation, a trust can help avoid exposure to some estate and other taxes, allocating effective ownership to your children, in a protected manner. Your ultimate goal: keeping ownership in the family and minimizing tax exposure.

A Beneficiary Defective Inheritance Trust (BDIT) may be appropriate for you. If you’ve already executed an outright transfer of the stock, it’s not too late to fix things. The BDIT is a grantor trust serving to enable protection of stock and eliminate any “residue” in your childrens’ estates.

If you haven’t yet transferred stock to children, don’t do it. The risk is very high. If you’ve already completed the transfer, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about how to reverse the transfer and create a plan to protect the business and your family.

Bottom line: business interests are better protected when they are held not by individuals, but by trusts for the benefit of individuals. Your estate planning attorney can draft trusts to achieve goals, minimize estate taxes and, in some situations, even minimize state income taxes. If you would like to learn more about business succession planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Street (June 27, 2022) “Should I Transfer Company Stock to My Kids?”

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Your Estate Plan should incorporate Asset Protection

Your Estate Plan should incorporate Asset Protection

Your estate plan should incorporate asset protection and tax planning. Most people don’t realize they live with a certain level of risk and it can be addressed in their estate plan, says an article from Forbes titled “You Need An Asset Protection Plan Not Just A Will.”

Being aware of these issues and knowing that they need to be addressed is step one. Here’s an illustration: a married couple in their 50s have two teenage children. They are diligent people and made sure to have an estate plan created early in their marriage. It’s been updated over the years, adding guardians when their children were born and making changes as needed. They have worked hard and also have been fortunate. They own a vacation home they rent most of the year and a small retail business and both of their teenage children drive cars. They don’t see a reason to tie asset protection and risk management into their estate plan. No one they know has ever been sued.

With assets in excess of $4 million and annual income of $350,000, they are a risk target. If one of their children were in an auto accident, they might be liable for any damages, especially if they own the cars the children drive.

The vacation home, if not held in a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or another type of entity, could lead to exposure risks too. If the property is not insured as an income-producing business property and something occurs on the property, the insurance company could easily refuse the claim if the house is insured as a residence.

If their retail business is owned by an LLC or another properly prepared entity, they have personal protection. However, if they have not followed the laws of their state for a business, they might lose the protection of the business structure.

Retirement assets also need to be protected. If they have employees and a retirement plan and are not adhering strictly to all of the requirements, their retirement plan qualification could easily be placed in jeopardy. Their estate planning attorney should be asked to review the pension plan and how it is being administered to ensure that their retirement is not at risk.

There are several reasons why tax oriented trusts would make a lot of sense for this couple. While current gift estate and GST (Generation Skipping Tax) exemptions are historically high right now, they won’t be forever.

This couple would be well-advised to speak with their estate planning attorney about the use of trusts, to serve several distinct functions. Trusts can shelter assets from litigation, decrease or minimize estate taxes when the estate tax changes in 2026 and possibly protect life insurance policies.

Estate planning and risk management are not only for people with mansions and global businesses. Regular people, business owners, and wage earners in all tax brackets, should incorporate asset protection in their estate plan to address their legacy, protect their assets and defend their estate against risks. If you would like to learn more about asset protection, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (June 7, 2022) “You Need An Asset Protection Plan Not Just A Will”

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LLCs can Reduce Estate Taxes

LLCs can Reduce Estate Taxes

Family LLCs can be used to protect assets, reduce estate taxes and more efficiently shift income to family members, reports the article “Handling Estates Like An LLC Can Reduce Taxes” from Financial Advisor. The qualified business income and pass-through entity tax deductions may add significant benefits to the family.

What is a Family LLC? They are holding companies owned by two or more individuals, with two classes of owners: general partners (typically the parents) and limited partners (heirs). Contributed assets of the general partners are no longer considered part of their estate, and future appreciation on the assets are not counted as part of their taxable estate.

Consider the LLC as three separate pieces: control, equity and cash flow. Because of the separation, you can maintain control of the personal/business assets, while at the same time transferring non-controlling equity of the assets to someone else via a gift, a sale, or a combination of the two.

An added benefit—transfers of non-controlling equity can qualify for a discount on the value for tax reporting, minimizing any gift or estate tax consequences of the transfer. Discounting business entities with very liquid assets is generally not advisable. However, illiquid assets could warrant a discount as high as 40%.

These types of structures are complicated. Therefore, you’ll need an estate planning attorney with experience in how Family LLCs interact with estate planning. The LLC must be properly structured and have a legitimate business purpose.

It’s important to note that if a real estate or operating business is put into an LLC and taxed as a pass-through entity instead of a sole proprietorship, they may be eligible for the 20% discount under Section 199A, or for the pass—through entity tax workaround for the limitation of the deductibility of state taxes for individuals and trusts.

Every state has its own rules about income qualifying for a state income tax deduction on the federal level. If you have an entity in place, you’ll want to speak with your attorney to determine if a pass-through entity on the state level will be advantageous. If so, this election may allow for a state income tax deduction on the federal level.

Your estate planning attorney will help you get a qualified appraisal of the assets, since the IRS will require an accurate value of the transfer for reporting purposes, especially if a discount is being contemplated. LLCs can reduce estate taxes and protect your assets, but this is a complex matter. The estate planning and tax advantages to be gained make it worthwhile for families with a certain level of assets to protect. If you would like to learn more about LLCs and how they can benefit your estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Financial Advisor (April 4, 2022) “Handling Estates Like An LLC Can Reduce Taxes”

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Keeping the Vacation Home for Generations

Keeping the Vacation Home for Generations

Many family traditions include gatherings at vacation homes. However, leaving these properties to the next generation is not always in the best interest of the family. Some people try to make a simple solution work for a complex problem, leading to more challenges, as explained in the article “Succession planning for the family lakehouse” from NH Business Review. Keeping the vacation home in the family for generations requires solid planning.

Joint ownership among siblings can lead to disputes about how the home is used, operated and maintained. Some children want to continue using the house, while others may see it as an income stream for a rental property. There may be siblings who cannot afford to participate in the house’s upkeep and need the cash more than the tradition. When joint ownership is presented as a surprise in a will, the adult children may find themselves fighting about the vacation home, with no parent around to tell them to knock it off.

Making matters more complicated, if the siblings live in different states and the house is in a neighboring state, ownership of the real estate at death may subject the decedent’s estate to estate taxes where the property is located. As a result, the property may need to go through probate in an additional state. Every state has its own tax rules, so the transfer of joint property will have to be analyzed by an estate planning attorney knowledgeable about the laws in each state involved.

A sensible alternative is creating a Limited Liability Corporation, ideally while the original owners—the parents—are still living. The organizational documents include a certificate of organization to file with the Secretary of State and an operating agreement. The LLC will need its own taxpayer identification number, or EIN.

The operating agreement governs the management of the property and addresses the operating expenses and maintenance of the property. It should also address the process for a child to cash in on their ownership to other children. LLC operating agreements often include these items:

  • Responsibilities for operating expenses
  • Process to transfer member units or interests
  • Duties for regular maintenance, budgeting and approval of property improvements
  • Development of a property use schedule
  • Establishing rules for the home’s use

There are some costs associated with creating an LLC, including annual filing requirements. However, these will be small, when compared to the cost of family fights and untangling joint ownership.

An LLC can also offer personal liability protection from lawsuits brought by renters, creditors, or any litigants. If there is an accident resulting from work being done on the property, the owners may be shielded from the liability because they do not personally own the property, the LLC does.

In the case of divorce, bankruptcy filing, or a large judgement being filed against one of the children, the LLC will protect their interest in the property.

The real estate owned by the LLC is not part of the owner’s probate estate. This avoids the need for a second probate in the state where the property is located. Some states have adopted the Uniform Transfer on Death Security Registration Act, and the LLC membership interest can be assigned along to the terms of the beneficiary designation.

Keeping the vacation home for generations to come provides peace of mind for all in the family. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that the property and the family’s peace is preserved. If you would like to learn more about including property in your estate planning, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: NH Business Review (March 23, 2022) “Succession planning for the family lakehouse”

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Keeping Vacation Home in the Family

Keeping Vacation Home in the Family

If your family enjoys a treasured vacation home, have you planned for what will happen to the property when you die? There are many different ways of keeping a vacation home in the family. However, they all require planning to avoid stressful and expensive issues, says a recent article “Your Vacation Home Needs and Estate Plan!” from Kiplinger.

First, establish how your spouse and family members feel about the property. Do they all want to keep it in the family, or have they been attending family gatherings only to please you? Be realistic about whether the next generation can afford the upkeep, since vacation homes need the same care and maintenance as primary residences. If all agree to keep the home and are committed to doing so, consider these three ways to make it happen.

Leave the vacation home to children outright, pre or post-mortem. The simplest way to transfer any property is transferring via a deed. This can lead to some complications down the road. If all children own the property equally, they all have equal weight in making decisions about the use and management of the property. Do your children usually agree on things, and do they have the ability to work well together? Do their spouses get along? Sometimes the simplest solution at the start becomes complicated as time goes on.

If the property is transferred by deed, the children could have a Use and Maintenance Agreement created to set terms and rules for the home’s use. If everyone agrees, this could work. When the children have their own individual interest in the property, they also have the right to leave their share to their own children—they could even give away or sell their shares while they are living. If one child is enmeshed in an ugly divorce, the ex-spouse could end up owning a share of the house.

Create a Limited Liability Company, or LLC. This is a more formalized agreement used to exert more control over the property. An LLC operating agreement contains detailed rules on the use and management of the vacation home. The owner of the property puts the home in the LLC, then can give away interests in the LLC all at once or over a period of years. Your estate planning attorney may advise using the annual exclusion amount, currently at $16,000 per recipient, to make this an estate tax benefit as well.

Consider who you want to have shares in the home. Depending on the laws of your state, the LLC can be used to restrict ownership by bloodline, that is, letting only descendants be eligible for ownership. This could help keep ex-spouses or non-family members from ownership shares.

An LLC is a good option, if the home may be used as a rental property. Correctly created, the LLC can limit liability. Profits can be used to offset expenses, which would likely help maintain the property over many more years than if the children solely funded it.

What about a trust? The house can be placed into an Irrevocable Trust, with the children as beneficiaries. The terms of the trust would govern the management and use of the home. An irrevocable trust would be helpful in shielding the family from any creditor liens.

A Revocable Trust can be used to give the property to family members at the time of your death. A sub-trust, a section of the trust, is used for specific terms of how the property is to be managed, rules about when to sell the property and who is permitted to make the decision to sell it.

A Qualified Personal Residence Trust allows parents to gift the vacation home at a reduced value, while allowing them to use the property for a set term of years. When the term ends, the vacation home is either left outright to the children or it is held in trust for the next generation.

Each of these options allows you the satisfaction of keeping that the treasured vacation home in the family. If you would like to learn more about managing property in estate planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Feb. 1, 2022) “Your Vacation Home Needs and Estate Plan!”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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