“Your error shall survive until you don't–and then things can hit the fan.”
A bonehead is someone who's stubborn, thick-skulled, or stupid. You don't need to be a bonehead, when it comes to estate planning. Work with a qualified estate planning attorney and don't make these dumb errors.
The Hockessin (DE) Community News reports in a recent article, “The dumbest estate planning moves,” that the misuse of joint ownership is extremely frequent.
You probably know that settling an estate without a will, can be very time consuming and expensive. One way that people try to avoid probate is with property owned jointly with rights of survivorship.
That's because the joint owner becomes the exclusive owner of that property, when the other owner passes away. This is the case for a bank account or a family home.
Many seniors say their joint owner, usually a son or a daughter, will gladly share the account with their siblings after the parent passes. But will the joint owner then tell their siblings that's how Mom wanted it?
More often than we'd like to believe, the result is that the other siblings may get a lot less than Mom wanted—or nothing at all. If the surviving owner does follow through with Mom's instructions and does truly square up with his brothers and sister, there may be other tax consequences.
That's because the process of squaring up may be considered a gift for tax purposes.
In real estate, there's a chance the remaining owner will be burdened with a low-cost basis. As a result, she will be hit with capital gains taxes, when later selling the asset. Mom's effort to simplify things may have actually caused a lifetime of family conflict.
Instead, avoid these troubles with a transfer on death account or the use of a revocable living trust.
Talk with an attorney to get help with the title changes. However, before the deed change is drafted and recorded, an estate planning attorney will be able to explain the tax consequences and the possible family conflict with those not on the receiving end. You will likely be better off with a properly prepared estate plan.