TURNING YOUR ESTATE OVER TO A SON OR DAUGHTER. WISE DECISION?

Over the years, I have encountered numerous instances where a surviving widow or widower added their Son or Daughter on the title to their house, real estate investments, their brokerage or other financial assets, and/or banking accounts.  Or, they gave controlling authority to their Son or Daughter over such assets.  Actually, giving partial ownership as compared to managing control are two different issues.

When you add someone else’s name to any assets, you are actually giving partial ownership to them.  Also, when you convey partial ownership of any asset, a Gift Tax is due on any amount above $14,000 ($28,000 Joint) in total value.   And, if that other person is ever sued, these assets might be effected.   I recall an elderly Woman, who added her middle-aged son to her accounts, and then finding that her bank accounts were frozen when he went through Divorce Proceedings.

In some states, legal proceedings cannot take your homestead from you; however, the share owned by a non-occupant might be another matter.  And, when someone conveys partial ownership of a home, generally part of other accounts might have been gifted, as well.  The total amount could be subject to the Gift Tax.  Discrepancies with gifting and the tax might come-up again when the Estate is eventually settled.

A Durable Power-of-Attorney would generally provide offspring with access, if necessary, without becoming a taxable event.  Also, if they are named in your Will or Trust, they would receive these assets free-and-clear as a non-taxable event, subject to the Estate Tax Exclusion at the time.  IRA and various tax-deferred assets (including bank I/T/F accounts) are generally Transferred upon Death, and by-pass probate.

When managing control is provided to a Son or Daughter, three questions arise: does your Offspring know what He or She might be doing with your assets?  Are they managing your assets for your benefit, and not theirs?  Are you reviewing your accounts, from time to time, to make sure that they are not transferring part of your assets to themselves, or otherwise encumbering them (as noted in the linked column)? As Reagan said, “trust, but verify”.

The linked column by Meg Green, in the Miami Herald, reveals a very sad situation, http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/04/v-print/3670334/meg-green-my-son-took-. charge.html.  Whenever someone else either has partial ownership or control over your assets, make sure that you review the statements with a Trusted Advisor, such as Your CPA. It needs to be someone who has your best interest in mind.

NOTE: As always, refer all specific Tax, Estate Planning or Legal questions to your own attorney or CPA.

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