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Whether you own a cabin in the woods or a mansion at the beach, creating an estate plan will determine the best way to distribute a home to your children.

There are many ways to pass property on to children, such as gifting a house to them while you are still alive, bequeathing it to the children at your death, or selling the home to your heirs. Each has legal and tax implications, so consider the possibilities and consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.

According to USA Today’s recent article entitled “How estate planning can help you pass down a house to your kids and give them a financial leg up,” as you put a plan in place, here are three options to review.

Gifting the property to children. One idea for a landlord with rental properties is to set up a revocable trust, where a trustee is responsible for liquidating houses as they became vacant, as long as the tenants were in good standing. This type of plan is built around the idea of maximizing the value to our children as beneficiaries and minimizing the impact on the trustee, while compensating them for their troubles. In addition, there may be tax implications. When you gift a house or any other capital asset to your children while you’re alive, there’s significant capital gains tax issues because of the carryover cost basis. The use of a revocable trust avoids probate. It gives the children a step-up in basis and allows them to avoid capital gains tax.

Bequeathing a house to heirs. You can gift the family home to the children while you’re still alive, bequeath it to them at your death, or sell the residence to your heirs. A will is the standard way to bequeath property to children. Parents have the ownership and benefit of the property during their lifetime and when the last parent dies, the children get the home with the stepped-up basis (the increased value of the property when it passes to the inheritors). A revocable trust is another option to bequeath property. Placing a house into a trust avoids probate court and saves on estate taxes. You can say who gets the property and set guidelines on how they get the property. If one child wants the property, for example, you can state they have to buy out the other siblings. Note that adding the children to the deed of the house means they will each own the house. Therefore, if one child wants to live in the home, the others won’t be able to sell because that child won’t be in agreement. A revocable trust can prevent this from happening.

Selling the home to the children. In addition to gifting a house, selling a home to an adult child may be wise, if the parents can no longer afford to maintain the property. However, there can also be pitfalls if the agreement isn’t well thought out. Parents should think about ways to save money when selling to their children, such as deeding the property to the kids and having them refinance the property and cash the parents out. If parents sell the home below fair market value to their children, they’re restricting their ability to have a retirement. This leaves little to help with retirement, since many people don’t have pensions and are only living on Social Security. There are also taxable gains consequences, if parents sell the home for more than they paid. The sale may result in higher property taxes to the purchaser in some situations.

Reference: USA Today (Dec. 7, 2021) “How estate planning can help you pass down a house to your kids and give them a financial leg up”