Protecting Your Family Home

Protecting Your Family Home

For most families, a home is among their most valuable assets, both financially and emotionally. It is important to be thoughtful about how you are going to leave a home and to whom.  If there are issues between siblings, tax considerations, or other family needs to consider, the parent should make an informed decision about what to do with the house and ensure that their estate plan reflects these wishes.

It is particularly important to come up with a specific plan for your home.  Compared with inheriting a stock or bank account, homeownership is complex, with ongoing costs and maintenance. In addition, many homes come with lots of memories that can make it very tricky for you to decide who will inherit it. If the person who inherits the home doesn’t want to keep ownership of it, they may incur legal fees, taxes, and other transaction costs to sell it. In addition, many states have estate tax exemption limits far below the federal level. If the value of the home exceeds that limit, the heir may face a state estate tax bill and may have insufficient funds to pay it. That could force a sale of the home or force the heir to seek financing options to pay the bill.  When there is an outstanding mortgage on the home, careful consideration needs to be given to how the debt will be handled when the home passes to the heirs.

To prepare for a smooth and efficient transfer of your home, start by thinking about your goals and your financial situation. Consider what would you like to see happen with the house? For instance, does one of your children still live with you, and do you want to provide an option for them to stay in the house for some period of time? Do you have a vacation home you would like to see shared by future generations?

You need to be mindful that your children may have different ideas about whether they would want to live in, sell, or keep the property for investment purposes.  When an estate plan is created based on an incorrect set of assumptions, it can create discord among family members.  The best-case scenario is when parents make informed choices and created a well thought out estate plan so the kids don’t have to worry or make major changes after the inheritance.

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