Owning assets jointly with one or more of your children or other heirs is a common estate planning “shortcut.” Two potential advantages are convenience and probate avoidance. But joint ownership can also create a number of problems, including:
Unnecessary taxes. Adding a child’s name to the title may be considered an immediate taxable gift of one-half of the property’s value. And when you die, the property’s value then will be included in your taxable estate, although any gift tax paid with the original transfer would be allowed as an offset.
Creditor claims. Joint ownership exposes the property to claims by your co-owner’s creditors or former spouses.
Loss of control. Your co-owner may be able to dispose of certain property without your consent or prevent you from selling or borrowing against certain property.
Unintended consequences. If your co-owner predeceases you, his or her share of the property may pass according to his or her estate plan or the laws of intestate succession. If you hold the property as co-tenants, you’ll generally have no say in the ultimate disposition of that portion of the property.
One or more properly drafted trusts can avoid each of these problems without the need for probate. Please contact us for answers about owning assets with your children or other heirs.