Serving Clients Throughout Wisconsin & Illinois 

Estate Planning Risk: ‘Adding Someone’ to the Title of Your Real Property

Beware the do-it-yourself “simple,” “efficient” estate plan. While simplicity and efficiency are valid objectives, it is important not to create unnecessary risk just so that you can save a few dollars in the short term. One risk that many people take is adding a co-owner to their real property trying to simplify the transfer upon their death. While often relatively fast and easy, this method potentially exposes both them and their loved one to avoidable risk.

When property owners say they want to “add someone” to the deed of their real property in order to create an easy method of passing the property, they often mean that they wish to create a joint tenancy with that other person. In many cases, this process occurs without a hitch. The original owner dies, and the person “added” takes over as the new sole owner of the property.

However, creating a joint tenancy of real property as an estate planning tool has many potentially negative ramifications, especially if the property is your home. This method is a completed transfer under the law, and that carries multiple consequences. One consequence relates to capital gains taxes. Taking ownership through this method, instead of inheriting the property, may cost the loved one a sizable portion of the potential “stepped-up basis” in the property. When he/she sells the property, he/she will owe capital gains taxes. Those could have been completely avoided if the property had been inherited.

Also, if a person “adds” a loved one, and he/she pays nothing, that is a gift. That can have certain impacts when it comes to estate and gift taxes, as well as income taxes for your loved one. Furthermore, if the gift giver needs to apply for Medicaid in the future, this gift may make them ineligible to receive Medicaid benefits for a period of several years, even if they are otherwise poor enough to qualify. As they say, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Beware that if you “add” someone, that person is a co-owner and has all the legal rights and obligations that you have. They can sell their share or mortgage your house, and if your loved one gets sued successfully, his/her creditors could go after the property. If they declare bankruptcy, the property may need to be sold to pay their creditors.

Fortunately, Wisconsin law allows many other, less risky options for efficiently transferring ownership in real estate. You can create a “transfer on death deed”, which only completes the transfer of your property upon your death, and does not give your loved one a present ownership interest; it also avoids tax and creditor risks. Also, you can create a living trust and fund the property into it, again avoiding many of the risks of creating a joint tenancy and adding many benefits that TOD deeds do not offer.

To start a discussion with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys, we invite you to request a consultation. The attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC, assist clients  with probate matters, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care documents, and a host of other estate planning tools.

Categories

 


Quality Counsel

Experience You Can Count On

What Sets Us Apart?

Our Philosophy
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Pursue Excellence
  • Teamwork
  • Innovative
  • Veteran Owned

The Stories That Matter

Read Our 5 Star Reviews
    [Matt] was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand.

    “Matt was able to answer my questions without all the legal mumbo jumbo. He was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand. Due to COVID pandemic, we were limited to a phone ...”

    - Steven
    [Matt] was very helpful...

    “He was very helpful in answering our questions and providing guidance that we understood.”

    - Troy
    He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very knowledgeable.

    “What a great attorney! He explained everything to us in plain English, with no legal jargon. He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very ...”

    - Mark
    Krause Donovan was wonderful...they asked all the right questions, were patient with our back and forth, and everything was wrapped up successfully.

    “My husband and I needed a will and turned to Krause Donovan for their help after the firm had invited us to a "what is estate planning all" about dinner/meeting. Having a will was something we knew we ...”

    - Kris
    Nelson was very understanding and put me at ease from the introduction. He thoroughly explained processes, answered all questions, took the time needed, and was detail-oriented.

    “I first met with Mr. Donovan this fall to discuss my estate planning. This is something a person dreads doing, but Nelson was very understanding and put me at ease from the introduction. He thoroughly ...”

    - Sherry
/

Take the Next Step

Schedule Your Consultation Today
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your address.
  • Please enter your city.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter your zip code.
    This isn't a valid zip cide.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.