Should a House Be in an Irrevocable Trust?

Image of a side of a house from the ground looking up. Captioned: Should a House Be in an Irrevocable Trust?

A home can go into an irrevocable trust. But giving up control over a primary residence is not something most owners want to do. The owner lets go of the “incidents of ownership” and the house goes under a separate tax ID, with taxes filed by a trustee. The owner might continue living in the home, but the house essentially becomes a vessel to hold property for the named beneficiaries.

Any homeowner’s financial circumstances and goals can change, and so can their relationships with potential beneficiaries: family, friends, and charities. This is why an irrevocable trust makes sense only in rare situations.

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Is It Time to Place Your Home in a Living Trust?

With a revocable (living) trust, you can assume the role of trustee, and stay in control of your real estate during your lifetime.

Image of a person sitting on a bench in a wooded area with two children. Captioned: Is It Time to Place Your Home in a Living Trust?

After you pass away, your living trust becomes a substitute for probate. This is especially helpful if your estate would otherwise face multiple probate processes because you have real estate in several locations. It is also a helpful way to pass a home along to children when they become old enough to receive it, as the trust can direct a title change to a child at a specified age.

If you need to modify your estate plan due to children growing up, a marriage or divorce, or other significant changes in the makeup of your household, or because of your age or physical needs, you may. You can take the asset out of the trust, assign a new trustee, change your beneficiaries, or modify other terms of your trust.

For many homeowners, this is the best of both worlds in estate planning. You keep full control during your life, but seamlessly transfer the home on when you pass on, avoiding the time, expense, and stress of probate. Still, there are plenty of things to know before making this decision, as we’ll observe in this article.

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Don’t Be the Intestate Homeowner: Write Your Will

No homeowner should die intestate. In plain English: Every homeowner needs a will.

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By now, everyone knows life is fragile. Nobody has forever and a day to put an estate plan down in writing.

And if you do leave things hanging, and you do pass away without a will, or without some combination of a will and other instruments to convey property, you’ll leave assets to be distributed under the state’s intestacy laws. States try to send everything to your closest relatives, and if you’re single without children, the state will contact siblings and so on, and pass your property to them. That might be OK with you. But if you’re like most homeowners, you’d prefer to decide for yourself.

If you’re a parent, it’ll be hard for your family to agree on what to do without your written guidance. You also need a will to bequeath assets to non-family members or nonprofits. You need a will, too, to explain why you are not giving your home to a close family member if you choose not to. Otherwise, you might be setting up a will contest after you pass.

When a person’s wishes are logically thought out and expressed through a will, though, messy scenarios are far less likely to unfold.

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Elders and Real Estate Fraud: A Burgeoning Problem

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Evelio and Milagros Esteban are in their 70s and they’ve been homeowners for years. But recently they ran into trouble paying their mortgage. That was when they mistakenly transferred their home deed to another Miami resident, who offered to help them rent out their home. Thinking they were signing a Section 8 housing application — which would help them rent out space affordably to low-income people — they in fact signed a quitclaim deed.

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If You Inherit a House, Act. A Cautionary Tale About Putting Off Probate

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A Cautionary Tale About Putting Off Probate

Five years ago in Texas, John died, willing his house to a nephew, A.W.

Today, A.W. wants to get ready to sell the house, and pay off some debt.

Here’s the rub. The will never went through probate, and a different relative of John’s has been living in the home all this time.

Who gets the house?

A.W. was named as the next owner in the will, and never refused the deed. So, legally, A.W. owns it, right? Wrong. Procrastination is the thief of assets, as A.W. learned the hard way. A will does not enact itself. It has to be probated according to a timeline. 

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When a Spouse, Partner, or Relative Dies: What’s Next for the Home?

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Real Estate and Death

Homes are complicated assets. When a homeowner dies, this becomes obvious. When loved ones are experiencing grief and loss, the real estate details can border on overwhelming.

If someone in your life died holding an interest in real estate, here is some general guidance. You might have some actions to take, depending on the situation.

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Age-Restricted Communities: How They Affect Your Real Estate

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Looking at homes in a 55+ community? You might wonder: Will I be able to leave my age-restricted condo home to my children?  

Before buying your new home in an age-restricted community, check the homeowners’ association rules on inheritance. Your realtor might have mentioned two pertinent guidelines these communities follow: the nationwide 80/20 rule, and the property’s own minimum age rule. We’ll flesh out these guidelines here.

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Homeowner Estate Planning: Real Estate Tips

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Ready to move estate planning to the front burner? Homeowners, especially, need to have a plan in place. If there is no will, and no other arrangements for the home to pass to a co-owner, it will pass according to the state intestacy provisions. That’s not an estate plan. There’s no better time than the present to choose a beneficiary, and make an estate plan.  

Here is the basic set of options, and how they might play out—financially, legally, and in emotional terms. We include a few tips to note in the process. Any or all could be a great conversation starter with your lawyer or financial adviser. Schedule a talk with family or other beneficiaries, too.

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