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How to Leave a House to Heirs


Your home is probably your most valuable asset. You are clear about whom you want to end up with it when you die. If you're a parent, you want your kids to inherit your home. Ensure that your wishes become reality. Among available options are including your home in your will, transferring your home to a living trust or including words in your deed to make it happen. In other words, estate planning.
Let's take each one and consider what's best for you.

  • Include your home in your will — A will lets you specify whom you want to inherit your assets, and you may specify that you want your assets to be legally transferred to your beneficiaries — your children. It's wise to designate whether you want the house kept in the family or sold. Otherwise, if one child wants to keep the house and the other wants to sell it, a rift may be created that even may end up in court.
  • Set up a living trust — A living trust is established while you're still alive. You transfer assets to the trust, which then controls them. You get to manage and benefit from the assets in the trust now, and when you pass away, these assets are transferred to your beneficiaries as designated in the trust document. When you transfer your home into a living trust, you get a number of benefits. The home passes to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process, and that means you avoid delays and the expenses associated with probate. It's a much quicker process. But any outstanding debts still need to be paid before the transfer happens. Keep in mind that you need to transfer the house to the trust before you die in order to avoid the probate process. State in the document who will get the house and who will receive other assets of equal value to avoid potential for conflict.
  • Using the right words in the deed to your home — Transfer on death or joint tenancy with right of survivorship; these phrases let you give your home to your heirs without delays associated with probate or the cost of setting up a trust. With the transfer on death, you own your home 100 percent while you are still alive, and you're free to do whatever you want with it — borrow against it or get a reverse mortgage. When you pass, the home automatically transfers to the beneficiary named. With joint tenancy with right of survivorship, you and the other person named on the deed are co-owners of your home. The house automatically transfers to your co-owner when you pass. A drawback? You don't have full control over your home, so if you want to borrow against the house or refinance it, your co-owner might object and even take you to court to stop you. Your home is subject to the debts of your co-owner, and if he or she gets sued by a creditor for a past-due debt, a lien might be put on the house.

There are a lot of reasons to choose one method over another, depending on your particular situation. Just be aware that you do have options, and the sooner you make a decision, the easier it will be to incorporate the wishes for your house in your estate plan. Be sure to consult a financial professional about your goals and discuss which options are right for you.

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Kim & Lee
Kim & Lee, LLP
2305 W. 190th St. Suite 100
Torrance, CA 90504
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