Estate Planning

FAQs About Estate Planning

Should I Deed My Home To My Kids Before I Die?

by Rania Combs

Not too long ago someone called me wondering if he really needed a will. He explained that his mother had transferred her home to him many years before she died. When she died, probate wasn’t necessary.  “Is there a reason why I shouldn’t do that?” he asked.

Our conversation brought to mind a story I read on February 17 of this year about a 98 year old woman who had been sent an eviction notice by one of her sons. Mary Kantorowski has lived in her home since 1953, and intended to live there for the rest of her life. But her son, to whom she had deeded the property, believed she was too old to live alone. He wanted her to move into a nursing home or to live with him, something she didn’t want to do.

To force her hand, he sent her an eviction notice in December of last year. Mrs. Kantorowski was devastated. She says she’s in good health and a judge has ruled her competent. The son, who was trying to evict her, lives just 20 minutes away but had not seen her in 8 months.

Like the gentleman who contacted me, Mrs. Kantorowski likely had the best intentions. Rather than having a will drafted to pass the property after she died, she likely believed transferring her property during her lifetime would be less burdensome to her children. Unfortunately, by transferring the property to him, she relinquished control of it and exposed herself to some risk.

Besides giving up control of your property, below are a few more reasons why transferring property to your children during your life is not a good idea:

    1. There may be gift tax consequences as a result of the transfer.
    2. The transfer could prevent you from immediately qualifying for Medicaid for nursing home care if you transferred the property within five years of the date you apply for such benefits.
    3. Your home could be exposed to your child’s creditors, and sold to satisfy a judgment against your child.
    4. If your home has appreciated in value, your children may be exposed to significant capital gains tax when they sell it because they will assume your basis. In contrast, if the home passes upon your death, your heirs get a stepped-up basis, which means that they will only be responsible for capital gains taxes if the property sells for more than the value on the date of your death.
    5. The child to whom you deeded the property could unexpectedly die before you, and your home could be transferred to his or her heirs, who may not want you to live in the home.

Deeding your home to your kids before you die is risky and may result in unintended consequences. The best way to ensure that your wishes are followed is to have a properly drafted will or trust. A Ladybird Deed may also be a good option.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. J Green

    August 14, 2018 at 8:32pm

    My father in law deeded his estate to his one and only son prior to his death (my husband). My father in law left behind a wife of 3 years. Per my father in laws will that he had left behind, all of his assets go to my husband. The wife is now wanting a percentage of the his assets as well as the farm. My question is, does she have any rights to the estate as this was already deeded to my husband? Also, she signed off and agreed upon the will prior to her getting a lawyer and saying she wants a percentage. Any information would be helpful.

    1. Rania Combs

      August 28, 2018 at 5:42pm

      The following article may answer your question: Can I Disinherit My Spouse In Texas?