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What’s Better: A Joint Tenancy or a Trust to Give a Home to a Child?

House“When leaving a home to your children, you can avoid probate by using either joint ownership or a revocable trust, but which is the better method?”

In the event you decide to add your child as a joint tenant on your home, you’ll each have an equal ownership interest in the property. When one joint tenant dies, the other joint tenant owns the entire property. This is an option that has the advantage of allowing you to avoid probate.

A recent article asks “Is It Better to Use Joint Ownership or a Trust to Pass Down a Home?

This article, in elderlawanswers.com, explains that a disadvantage of joint tenancy is that creditors can attach the tenant's property to satisfy a debt. In such a case, if a co-tenant defaults on his or her debts, the creditors can sue in a partition proceeding to have the property interests uncoupled so the property can be sold, even over the objections of the non-debtor owner(s). What’s more, without a creditor issue, one co-owner of the property can sue to partition the property and can force another owner to move out.

Joint tenancy can also impact the capital gains treatment of the property. When you give property to a child, the tax basis for the property is the same price for which you purchased the property.  However, inherited property receives a step up in basis. This means that the basis would be the current value of the property. When you pass, your child inherits your half of the property—one half of the property will receive a step up in basis. However, the tax basis of the gifted half of the property will be the same as the original purchase price. If your child sells the home after the parent dies, he or she would have to pay capital gains taxes on the difference between the tax basis and the selling price. To avoid this tax, the child must live in the house for at least two years before selling it. When that happens, he or she can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a couple) of capital gains from taxes.

Revocable Trust

If you place the property in a revocable trust and name yourself as the beneficiary and your child as the beneficiary after you die, the property will go to your child without going through probate when you pass away. A trust will also be able to guarantee you the right to live in the house and take into account changes in circumstances, like if your child passes away before you do.

One other important benefit of a trust pertains to capital gains taxes. The tax basis of property in a revocable trust is stepped up when you die. This means the basis in the home would be the date of death value of the property. Therefore, if your child sells the property immediately after inheriting it, the value of the property would not see much change. As a result, the capital gains taxes would be little or nothing.

A trust typically allows for greater flexibility and offers more options to protect both the parent and the child. Everyone’s situation is different. Be sure to speak with a qualified estate planning and Elder Law attorney about how to pass down your property effectively.

Reference: elderlawanswers.com (February 27, 2017) “Is It Better to Use Joint Ownership or a Trust to Pass Down a Home?

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How to Solve the Issue of Passing Your House to Your Heirs

Realtor with keysNo one likes to think about passing away, but when you do, you're going to leave stuff behind. If you're leaving behind modest assets, then Uncle Sam doesn't care too much about what happens to them. Your heirs can do whatever they want with them. However, Fox News says in its post, “You're Going to Die—Here Are the Best Ways to Deal with Your Home,” that if you have a home or land you want to leave to loved ones, it can be complicated (even if you have a will).
However, there are a few ways to help straighten things out now.
If you have a couple of kids and a house, as your heirs, the kids will have to wait until after the property passes through probate court. This can take months and can be expensive. Taxes may be levied as well, which can be substantial on a modest home. Once that's done, the kids are then able to take title to the house or sell it; however, there are ways to avoid—or at least minimize—these problems.
1. Tenancy by the entirety. If you're married and own property together, there’s typically not much you need to do to make certain your home is passed on to your spouse. If both spouses have their names on a deed, most states recognize tenancy by the entirety, which says that when one spouse dies, everything he or she owns goes to the other spouse. That's it. No probate at the first death.
2. Joint tenancy. If you're not married or if you want to pass your property to some other relative, you should prepare by transferring part of your interest to that other person to create a joint tenancy. This is nearly identical to tenancy by the entirety, but there is no wedding ring involved. These are the easiest ways to transfer title, but there are downsides. Remember, the other person now owns your property as well. You have now exposed the property to outside control and to the lawsuits, creditors, divorces and other issues of another party. Yes, your property could be lost due to the financial troubles of the person whose name you just added to the title. The better answer may be to create a living trust.
3. Living trusts. If you place property in trust, it means that you’re letting someone else—the trustee—take care of it for the benefit of another person—the beneficiary. However, with a living trust, you can act as the trustee of the property yourself and can elect to pass it on to another person only when you die. You can also change your mind and name a different beneficiary. Trust language can be complicated. This is definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Generally speaking, a living trust will avoid probate, and the transfer is usually smooth and seamless.
4. Land trusts (if valid in your state). Like living trusts, land trusts have the same anonymity and ease of transfer. They also require a setup fee and an annual fee on top of that—though typically this fee is less than $100. Unlike a living trust that can hold all sorts of assets, a land trust can hold only one thing: land. A living trust offers a lot more flexibility. In light of this, land trusts are usually set up when someone wants only to pass down real property or as part of a more complex estate planning strategy.
Ok, we’re all going to die, and our loved ones will be sad. However, if you own real estate, you can make this aspect of settling your estate much easier for your loved ones after you pass.
Reference: Fox News (July 22, 2016) “You're Going to Die—Here Are the Best Ways to Deal with Your Home”

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