For a family whose 91-year-old mother lives in her home, has a will and has appointed two sisters as Power of Attorney and executors of her estate, the question of handling the transfer of the home is explored in a recent article from the Herald Tribune, “Transfer title now or go through probate in the future?”
The family wasn’t sure if it made more sense to transfer the title to her two daughters and son while she was still living, or let the children handle the transfer as part of the probated estate. The brother may wish to purchase the home after the mother passes, as he lives with his mother.
If nothing is done, the house will be part of the probated estate. A case will have to be opened, a representative will be appointed by the court (usually the personal representative named in the will) and then the personal representative can sell assets in the estate, close accounts and deal with the IRS and the Social Security Administration. The probate process can be time-consuming and expensive, depending on where the mother lives.
There are a number of steps that could be taken to simplify things. The mom’s assets can be held jointly, so they pass to the surviving owner, or a trust can be created, and her assets be titled to the trust, so they pass automatically to beneficiaries.
Depending on the state’s laws, the children might be able to use a Life Estate Deed or an Enhanced Life Estate Deed that would let the property transfer automatically to heirs upon the mother’s death. The siblings then inherit the property at the stepped-up value.
Here’s another question to consider: how does the cost of setting up trusts and transfer on death deeds compare to the estimated cost of probating the estate?
This family, and others in the same situation, should speak with an estate planning attorney to evaluate their options. The siblings in this case need to clarify whether their brother wants to buy the house and if he is able to do so. The mom then needs to make a decision, while she is still able to do so, because after all, it’s still her home.
Reference: Herald-Tribune (Nov. 7, 2020) “Transfer title now or go through probate in the future?”
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