For many people, their home is their most valuable and most cherished asset. Homeownership brings a sense of pride, and protecting that property is top of mind for most of our clients when they are thinking about creating their estate plan. In this blog, we will give a brief overview of the various ways to transfer your home after your death.
Last Will & Testament or Living Trust
The first two ways you can provide for the transfer of your home after your death is by having a valid will or trust. A key distinction to remember here: a will does not avoid probate whereas a trust can avoid the probate process. In the will or trust, we can identify the property to be transferred and the people to whom you would like it transferred. If you create a trust, we can include further instructions about how the property should be distributed or managed after your death. For example, if you have a vacation home that you would like your kids to share, we can include instructions to the Trustee regarding that arrangement and set forth who will be responsible for utilities, upkeep, property taxes, etc.
Another potential solution to transfer your home after your death is to execute a beneficiary deed. This is a simple deed that identifies the property and the beneficiaries of the property. You can also list successor beneficiaries (e.g., backup beneficiaries) to provide for the scenario where one of your primary beneficiaries passes before you. Similar to a living trust, a beneficiary deed can be changed or revoked at any time. Most importantly, it also allows your house to avoid the probate process. Upon your death, the house can be transferred quickly and easily to your beneficiaries.
Joint Ownership with Right of Survivorship
In Arizona, it is fairly common (especially for married couples) to hold title to their property either as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” or as “community property with right of survivorship.” If you see that survivorship language in your current deed, you’re in luck – this means that upon the death of the first joint owner (e.g., the first spouse to die), the surviving joint owner/spouse can easily take title solely in their name. It would then be a good idea for that surviving owner to consider what should happen to the home after their own death by exploring the various options we have discussed here.
With homeownership comes a sense of pride, and having a plan in place to transfer your home to your family or other heirs upon your death is crucial. Whether you accomplish this through a will or trust, a beneficiary deed, or a right of survivorship, your family will be grateful that you took the time to protect such a valuable and cherished asset. If you’d like some help putting one of these plans into action, schedule a consultation with us to help you choose the best path forward for you and your family.