If you are like most people, your home is the largest and most valuable asset in your estate.
It is likely that you have spent years building equity in your home, making lifelong memories, cutting the grass, yelling at the dishwasher (wait, just me?), and working against a mortgage or two.
With all of the time and money you have spent on your home, you want to protect it. Just like you have homeowner's insurance in case something happens to the house, what do you have in place if something happens to you?
For homeowners, it is essential that you take the time to ensure that your hard-won asset passes down to the next generation.
Transferring your home in a way that preserves family harmony and avoids unnecessary cost and conflict should be central to your estate plan. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you weigh your options and determine the right method for you and your family.
Can't I just give my home as a gift or add them to the title?
Of course, you may give your home to one or more of your children as a gift during your lifetime, or even add them to the title as a co-owner.
If you do so, you will want to go over this plan with an attorney and an accountant. Giving a gift as large as a home may trigger one or more significant taxes both at the state and federal level. You will want to be sure to understand the full tax and liability implications of such a gift. The same is true of “transfer-on-death" (TOD) or “beneficiary” deeds. Using this method will pass title of your home to the designated individual immediately upon your death, without the need for probate. Transfer-on-death deeds should not be used to replace a comprehensive estate plan, and they are generally best used for relatively small estates. Again, there are potential implications of such a transfer, so it is always important to consult with an attorney on your specific situation
Should I include my house in my will?
When most people think about estate planning, they think of a will.
It’s true that a will is the simplest, and probably least expensive, estate planning tool to create. This is because it is basically a document that lists your preferences for how you want your affairs to be handled after you pass, and then a court will go through the document and determine whether the preferences are legal and fair.
This court process is called probate, and it begins after your death. First, the court determines the legitimacy of the will and makes the contents of the will publicly known (this is so creditors or others can come forward with any outstanding debts or to challenge the will). In some cases, there are not enough assets in the estate to pay creditors. In this instance the court can force a sale of any real estate to pay those debts.
Finally, after debts and challenges are managed in court, the home may pass to your named heirs. Keep in mind that if you leave a home to more than one person, they each will take full ownership rights of the property. This means that, whether they decide to keep or to sell the home, they will have to agree on the outcome.
What does it mean to transfer a home to a trust?
To avoid probate and retain control over the property, it is possible to transfer ownership of your family home to a trust. There are many different ways to structure a trust, each creating different results. While trusts cost more than a will to create, there is no cost to your heirs later on. Based on the instructions on the trust, the transfer of property also occurs much more quickly than if the estate has to first go through probate.
What happens if I use a trust?
You may have heard of revocable living trusts.
Using this form of trust allows you to retain control of the property until you pass. The successor trustee, whomever you name in the trust document, will take over control of the property in the interest of the beneficiaries, your children.
This kind of trust allows the property to be transferred to your children without going through probate and without undue delay. If your children are minors, young adults, or simply not ready to take on the responsibility of home ownership, the trustee can help by managing the home in their interest.
Talk to a Missouri Estate Planning Attorney
Every family’s circumstances are different, and transferring real estate is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan. It may seem confusing, but Emerald Law is always happy to help. If you own a home, and you have not made plans for how to transfer ownership to your children or other loved ones, feel free to reach out to me.
I can’t wait to hear from you!