So You Want Your Child to Have the Family Home…

April 2017

Scenario: Adult child lives with parent.  Maybe this is for financial reasons, or perhaps the child is acting as caretaker. The parent wants this child, (Child 1), to have the home at the time of parent’s death – it seems to be a common theme. However, if proper planning isn’t done, it’s very unlikely that the transition of the family home to Child 1 will go smoothly or that it will even happen.

Why is this scenario so problematic? This is usually because there are competing interests at stake as well as a lack of communication and planning. For example, if there are multiple children, let’s say there are three children for this scenario, from the parent – the children will bring differing economic means and interpersonal dynamics into the equation.

Let’s take a look at what different goals of the parent may be and how they can be achieved.

  • To leave the home outright to Child 1 regardless of its value.
    • This can be done through a Will, Trust, Transfer-on-Death Deed, or naming Child 1 as a joint tenant.
  • To make sure all of three of the children (including Child 1) receive an equal share of the estate (assuming there are multiple).
    • This planning is best done through a Will or Trust, providing a first right of refusal or by stating how the individual assets should distribute.
    • Things to think about:
      • Are there enough estate assets to equalize the other two children if the home is distributed to Child 1?
      • If not, can Child 1 qualify and afford to finance 2/3 of the home’s value?

In addition, there are several questions that also need to be addressed when assessing the parent’s goals such as who are the other players besides the children? Will the parent’s personal representative or other estate fiduciary have competing interests?

I cannot stress enough the importance for the parent to get their plan in place. This does not have to be a costly endeavor. Half the battle is communicating openly with all of the children about the parent’s wishes and then the home can end up in the right hands of Child 1.

This post was written by Karen Schlotthauer, an attorney in our Trusts & Estates practice group. If you have questions about estate planning, Karen can be reached at karen.schlotthauer@fmjlaw.com or (952) 995-9500.