A nightmare for many of us – what if your most valuable asset isn't passed on to your children after you pass away? What if this happens even if you do have a will but an error in the paperwork made it invalid? Luckily, this nightmare doesn't have to happen, especially if you take the right steps when it comes to estate and trust planning.
How can you make sure that you follow the right steps? How can you make sure you are working with the best attorney specialized in estate administration? Are there any secrets you have to know? Keep in mind that if you have everything in order, and if you have the right paperwork, your home will be passed on to your children. Here are the best tips to help you ensure the inheritance goes to your children, no matter what:
Put your assets in a will
This sounds pretty simple, right? After all, a will is a basic part of your estate... However, you'll be amazed at how many people fail to even have a basic will. Many people who have a will, don't do it right, mainly because they don't work with an attorney specialized in estate administration. Firstly, naming your beneficiaries right is crucial – not being specific can cause a lot of problems after you pass away. Your family may argue about the inheritance and your assets, leading to delays and higher costs.
A common example is when a house is equally shared by a brother and a sister. According to the will, both siblings get an equal share, but what happens if the brother has a lot of debt and the sister doesn't?
Let's say that the brother wants to sell his share to get rid of the debt, but the sister doesn't want to sell. What happens next? These are all small details that should be outlined in your will. Make sure you include every detail in the will. Talk to your estate and trust planning attorney and see what must be included in order to avoid unforeseen issues.
Using the right words
This cannot be stressed enough. You must put every important detail into writing, and be specific about it. Work together with an attorney and pay attention to each step. However, this is not enough. You should also use the right legal terms and make sure every sentence is precise. Don't use ambiguous words, obscure terms, or double-entendre phrases. These may all lead to confusion and the court may declare the will invalid.
Also, pay attention to the legal terms and make sure you know what they mean. For instance, do you know what “transfer on death” or “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” mean? What is the difference between these terms? You will need to know what these terms mean. Of course, if you don't know about these legal terms, talk to your estate and trust planning attorney. For instance, if you choose to transfer on death, your home is immediately transferred to the person on the deed (assuming this option is available in your state). On the other hand, if you choose a joint tenant with the right of survivorship, and you co-own the house with your spouse, the ownership is passed to the spouse when you pass away. There's an obvious downside to this option – you don't have full control over your asset. For instance, your ownership will be passed on to your spouse, who can then decide who the actual beneficiaries of the estate are, regardless of your choice.
Create a living trust
Living trusts are better legal tools to help you pass assets to your children. While wills are basic and include simple procedures or provisions, living trusts help you manage your assets while you are still alive. Living trusts let you assert more control over your assets after you pass away. If you choose a living trust, your assets become part of the trust, according to the provisions included in the trust.
When you pass away, the assets won't go through the probate process (this procedure is court-supervised and can be quite expensive and time-consuming). The assets will be transferred directly to the beneficiaries mentioned in the living trust, quickly and efficiently. Contact an attorney specialized in estate administration to learn more about the benefits of living trusts when compared to wills.
Selling your home to your children
Even though it is rarely used, this is a safe procedure to make sure your children actually inherit your home. Essentially, you sell the home to your children during your lifetime. The sale is similar to other real estate transactions. You have to sell the home at a fair market value. Also, you can loan the money to your children, so that they are able to purchase it. The procedure is quite simple, but try to contact an attorney to draft the required paperwork.
Creating a qualified personal residence trust
This is another way to transfer ownership of your home to your children. The legal document is known as the qualified personal residence trust, and it's not very common. If you choose this type of trust, you, as the grantor, are allowed to live in your home rent-free for a certain period of time (sometimes it can be for the remainder of your lifetime), but your children are the actual owners of the home.
If you outlive the terms of the trust, the property will be excluded from your estate, and you will have to pay rent to your children, at fair market value, while living in the home. This option is obviously not ideal for many families, but it can be an alternative, depending on your specific needs. Try to contact a good attorney before considering a qualified personal residence trust, as the document is quite complex and there are many legal caveats to pay attention to.
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