For many people living in New York, their real estate holdings will be their most substantial assets. There are many considerations when dealing with a home as part of your estate plan, and it’s important to really look at your family’s circumstances before you make a decision about what will work best.
Depending on your needs, there are many possible ways to handle the transition of ownership of your home at the time of your death, although certain methods are more common than others.
Hold title with your spouse as joint tenants with rights of survivorship
One of the easiest ways to make sure that your house passes directly to your spouse or partner at the time of your death without anyone interfering with their ability to live there will be to adjust the deed for your property so that the two of you jointly hold title with rights of survivorship.
If you die while holding title this way, your spouse will have the right to stay in your marital home for the rest of their life.
Place the house in a trust in order to avoid probate
Another popular technique for ensuring the smooth transition of ownership for real estate involves placing that real estate in a trust. The trustee will be the one who has control over possession and occupancy in the property, and the house won’t wind up going through probate with the rest of your assets.
The use of a trust can ensure ongoing tenancy in the property for a spouse or partner that you have not married. It can also ensure that the house’s value passes to another party per your wishes later in the future.
Some people want to divide the value of the house among their loved ones
If you don’t have someone who will live in the property with you at the time of your death or who will stay there after you die, you might want to have your executor sell your house for its fair market value and distribute the proceeds between your heirs or beneficiaries. If you think that one of your children might want to own the house, you can always include a clause that gives them the right of first refusal, thereby allowing them to make a fair market offer on the property before anyone else.
It’s possible that one of these three solutions may work for you, or you may need even more unique and customized solutions for your home, depending on your family and financial circumstances. The sooner you start planning, the easier it will be to protect your home and the value it represents to you and your heirs.