Estate Planning? Don’t Forget Your Family Home
If you’ve assumed that you’d just leave your home to your children or other heirs in your will, you may want to take a step back to reconsider. After all, even if your loved ones all get along, simply “leaving” an asset as significant as a house can sow confusion – or even discord.
Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do instead.
Where are your heirs? Location is key
Where your heirs live can have a significant impact on your planning. If you want to “age in place” in your family home and leave it to your children through a will, having someone local to deal with probate can be an important consideration.
After all, losing one’s parents is hard enough – having to travel to deal with legal issues after that can just add stress to an already difficult situation.
If you don’t have someone nearby who can help manage the process, it might be worth considering other means for leaving your home to your children. Alternatively, discuss the possibility of travel with your heirs and consult with an estate attorney to make sure you understand any potential tax implications.
How will you pay? Property and personal risks
We’ve all heard the old saying that “failure to plan is planning to fail,” but in the case of estate planning the risks run deeper.
Without a plan for your home (and other assets), situations like the need for additional resources to finance end-of-life care or other emergencies can get much more stressful for families. Not knowing your wishes, your heirs might feel like their hands are tied, or they might disagree about what the best way forward would be.
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Help avoid these situations by recognizing that your home is probably the single largest asset that you have. If you want to stay in your home as long as you can, consider the personal risks that you might face – a fall, an illness, a need for specialized assistance later in life – and try to think of how your home will factor into those needs.
Maybe you empower your children to sell the home under certain conditions during your life, or perhaps you provide instructions for alternatives.
Due to the complexity, we believe that this type of planning is best conducted with the help of a qualified financial advisor and your estate attorney.
Don’t forget to communicate – and listen!
Depending on the size and structure of your estate and the way in which you leave it, your heirs could get stuck with unexpected legal costs – including the cost of potential disputes. Probate itself can trigger a small but significant outlay for attorney’s fees and related processes.
Add family discord, and a seemingly simple inheritance can become a source of ongoing financial and personal stress.
That’s why communication is so important to estate planning. Have a discussion about your plans, including what you want for your home and how you’d like it to be divided, used, or shared among your loved ones.
From there, be sure to listen.
What you think of as a generous idea – like leaving your family home to your children or grandchildren – can be a source of stress for heirs who would need to either figure out who gets to move in, deal with the process of turning it into a rental, or go through selling the place later on.
In situations like these, strategies like setting up a trust or even making a plan for leaving cash instead of property might be preferable.
In blended family situations, where you might have children from one or more marriages, there could also be additional feelings about who “gets” to have the property, about inheritance, or about preserving a family legacy. These are important conversations to have, and to the extent that it’s feasible we encourage our clients to try and clear the air.
Are you considering all your options?
There is no single answer to how to leave your home to your heirs, and no financial tool is without costs and benefits.
That’s why these types of plans are, in our opinion, best crafted with the help of a qualified financial advisor and estate attorney. In some situations, a will might be perfectly sufficient, but in others a family or personal trust could be more advantageous.
Keep in mind that there are several types of trusts that can be used to meet specific needs with regards to your home. Solutions like personal residence trusts or qualified terminable interest property trusts (commonly known as “QTIPs”), among others, can be useful in meeting unique estate planning needs.
However, these structures can be complex and are not for everyone, which is why an estate attorney can be an important part of your team.
The one thing we feel comfortable saying that you can do, and what we think you probably should do, is to get started on making these plans. In our experience, delays can have the unhappy result of turning your single biggest asset into your children’s single biggest headache.
Are you juggling multiple generations of planning?
Helping your children may just one part of a larger plan to provide opportunity and resources to your family.
Download our free guide to full family financial planning, From the Bucket List to the Bank, for more tips and ideas on estate planning, forging family bonds, and managing the risks that come with a multi-generational approach to wealth management.
Download our free guide and take the reins of your family legacy today!
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