For many of us, our home is our most valuable asset. Because of this, if you are a parent, it is most likely going to be the case that you want your children to inherit your home after you die. Careful estate planning can help ensure that your wishes are honored and your children soundly take over ownership of your home after you pass away. There are a few different estate planning techniques that can accomplish this.
How to Make Sure Your Children Inherit Your Home
A common mechanism to outline who you want your asset, including your home, to pass to is a last will and testament. Most commonly referred to as simply a “will,” this is a legal document that allows you to dictate who you want to inherit assets from your estate. You can specify in your will that you want your children to inherit your home. After you die, your will goes through probate. Probate is the court-supervised process of administering the estate of a deceased individual.
A notoriously lengthy and rather complex, not to mention costly, process, probate involves the paying off of any outstanding, valid debts of the deceased as well as the distribution of a decedent’s assets according to the terms of a legally valid will. Assets, such as a home, are not distributed until the end of the probate process and so there is often a significant delay in the transfer of ownership. In most instances, your children will receive an undivided interest in your home, unless you specify otherwise. In the event of an undivided interest, your children will have to agree on what to do with the property itself. This can often lead to conflict.
Another common mechanism for the distribution of a home to children upon a person’s death is through a living trust. A living trust is, as the name suggests, a type of trust. With a living trust, you can transfer ownership of your home to the trust and then the trustee will manage it according to the terms set forth in the trust. Upon your death, the living trust will not have to go through probate, which is one of the biggest benefits of establishing a trust in general. Should your children have any conflicting opinions about what should be done with the property, the trustee will be tasked with making the decision according to the terms set forth in the trust document.
One of the less often used ways to help ensure transfer of ownership to children upon a person’s death is through joint ownership. When a property is held in joint ownership with rights of survivorship, the ownership interests of an owner that dies are automatically transferred to the surviving owners. This is the most common arrangement between married couples. Joint owners who are not married, regardless of having another type of familial relationship status, can create issues that should be examined prior to the establishment of the joint ownership arrangement. It is also important to note that, in Pennsylvania, each joint owner must own an equal ownership share in the property. This is not necessarily the case in other states.
You may have heard that you can transfer your property to your children by establishing it as a transfer on death asset. A transfer on death asset names a beneficiary who receives ownership of the property automatically upon the death of the original owner. This, however, is only permissible in certain states and Pennsylvania is not one of them.
Estate Planning Attorneys
To protect the proper transfer of your assets, including your home, upon your death, put a comprehensive estate plan in place. The dedicated estate planning attorneys at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace help clients every day to secure their legacy through strong estate plans. Contact us today.