Dear Liza: I am divorced and own a second vacation cabin that I want my children to have when I die. Is there a way for me to retain rights, ownership and control while I am alive and of sound mind but pass the property to them when I die that doesn’t have a bunch of overwhelming taxes? Yes. Upon your death you can leave the kids the cabin either outright or in a trust. If you leave it to them outright, as tenants in common, each will own 1/2 and can leave their half to whomever they choose when they die. If you leave it to them in trust, you can control how it’s managed and how it would be transferred upon their deaths (as in maybe it has to go to their children or be sold to other family members.) The tax treatment of the gift is that it will go to them free of tax — if there’s a tax to pay, it falls on your estate, but they inherit what’s left free of tax. The capital gains tax basis on the property will be what it is on your date of death, so if they sell it someday, they’ll owe tax on the gain in value from your date of death to the date of sale. I don’t know what state you live in, but in California, where I practice, a gift from parent to children is also excluded from reassessment of property tax, so they get the property tax rate you were paying.
Tag Archives: gifting
Dear Liza: I thought about putting my son on the title of my house so he would have additional financial support. I’m not just real comfortable with that idea. I know creditors can and do go after people with ownership to a home.My son is doing well, but he does have a large student loan he needs to repay. What do you think about my adding him to the title of my house? I think you should listen to that inner voice that isn’t comfortable with the idea. You are absolutely right that adding him to the title puts your assets at risk to his creditors. Also, if you put him on title, you are making a taxable gift to him of one-half the value of the house and you should report that on a gift tax return by April 15th of the following year. (You won’t owe any gift tax, most likely, because at the moment you can give up to $5.12 million without having to pay gift tax, but you still have to report any gift over $13,000.) Finally, he will get your one-half of the house with a capital gains tax basis of what you paid for that house (and I’m guessing it’s appreciated since then.) If he ever does sell it, he’ll owe capital gains taxes on the amount it’s appreciated since you purchased it. You can leave him the house at your death, if that’s what you want to do, but for now, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Dear Liza: My father just died. He left his Roth IRA to ten family members, thrilled to be leaving us with a long-term retirement investment. But two of the beneficiaries are under 18, and our credit union is saying that the minors can’t keep the Roth IRA, but have to cash out their shares and open custodial accounts. That’s not what my Dad would have wanted. Are they right? Yes, most likely. Here’s the deal: a minor can inherit property, but under state law, minors can’t control that property until they’re legal adults. In California, where I practice, a minor cannot own more than $5,000 without some form of legal control and management by an adult, like a property guardianship, a custodial account, or a trust for that minor’s benefit. A property guardian is appointed by the court, and may be a child’s parent or any person nominated by the parent. The guardianship terminates when the child becomes a legal adult — 18 in my state, but this varies by state law as well. So, check with your credit union to see if they’d permit you to keep those accounts under a property guardianship to age 18. If so, it may be worth it to you get yourself appointed as property guardian. Alternatively, cash those accounts out, open up a custodial account at the credit union, and don’t let those kids touch that money. When the custodial accounts end (25 in my state; varies by state law), make them open up IRA’s with the money because that was your father’s wish. You can’t legally require that they do so, but you can make them feel really, really guilty if they don’t.
Dear Liza: My Mother’s Will left ½ to me, ½ to my sister. I am married with no children; my sister is survived by her husband and two grown children. The probate attorney said my sister’s share will go to her two children, but that her husband would inherit nothing. If that’s true, why does my attorney want my sister’s husband to sign a Quit Claim deed? As a general matter, unless a Will or trust states otherwise, a parent’s inherited share is passed to their surviving issue (children, grandchildren) and not to a surviving spouse. Of course, your mother could have left your sister’s share to your sister’s husband if she wanted to. Without reading the Will and without reviewing probate rules for your state, I can only offer you some general thoughts. It sounds as if your attorney is just being extra careful to make sure that title to the house is clear–if you ever sell that house, the chain of title must be documented and cleared before the sale. A Quit Claim Deed documents that your brother-in-law has no claim on the property, which sounds true. Your brother-in-law may feel more comfortable signing the Quit Claim deed if he gets his own attorney to make sure that nothing fishy is going on.
Dear Liza: My Dad wants to start giving money to my children each year. Should I to hire a lawyer to draft a trust for this money? That’s so nice of your Dad. And smart, too. He can give $13,000 each year to each of your children (twice that if he’s married and his wife wants to make such gifts), free of any gift tax. Over time, this can really add up. Lucky you. So, here are your Dad’s choices: if he wants to keep it really simple, your Dad can give the money to your kids and you can set up a custodial acccount at a local bank or brokerage company. This is sort of like a generic, off-the-rack trust, established by state law, with standard terms. In many states, a custodial account lasts until a child reaches the age of 21. Before then, the custodian (probably you) can use the money for the minor (school tuition, summer camp, computers). At 21, the money is the child’s money and they can use it for whatever they would like to use it for (trip to Paris; race car business; college). If your Dad wants to limit the use of this money to just college, he can make these gifts to 529 Plan accounts in your children’s names. This money grows tax-free; and can be withdrawn tax-free, provided it’s used for an approved educational expense (like college). If your Dad would like the money to remain in trust past the age of 21, or would like to restrict its use to only certain things: only to buy a house after the age of 30; only for travel to exotic destinations; to stay in trust until a child is 35, that’s when an attorney should get involved. A custom-drafted trust can have restrictive terms and last for as long as the person who establishes the trust wants it to last.