Is it Better to Give than Receive?

17 Jan

MetroBoston Publication Date January 17, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

When families get together over the holidays talk often turns to inheriting mom or dad’s house or estate.

Is it better to receive a gift of real estate today or inherit it later? Tax wise, a gift isn’t always the best choice.

When a person dies one’s real estate has to be valued. Let’s say the present market value of the house is $500,000, but mom or dad only paid $100,000 for it.

Give it to your children while you are alive and they are considered to have acquired it at the same price you (mom and dad) paid plus any improvements.

A person who receives a gift steps into the shoes of the giver. If your children acquire the property by gift at the same price or tax basis as mom and dad paid ($100,000) and sell it later for $500,000, they’ve made a profit of $400,000.

If your children inherit it later, on the other hand, the tax law treats it as if your children bought it at its fair market value. Inherit it at $500,000, sell it at $500,000 and they technically made no profit.

Always consult your tax advisor or attorney before gifting real estate. It’s a complicated subject. The above information may not apply you. © 2013 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions. Contact him at




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