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Is an Inheritance a Gift or an Entitlement?

26 Sep

MetroBoston publication date September 25, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

The answer depends not only on your personal philosophy but whether you are the one inheriting or giving.

More people these days are considering whether it is better to leave all or a sizeable portion of one’s money and property to a charity rather than one’s children.

A frequently asked question is whether an inheritance will help one’s children in some important way or provide an incentive to do little or nothing with their lives, personal growth, or career development.

Frankly, too many children of wealthy or financially well-off families seem to do far less with their lives while waiting for an inheritance and become hostile later on when they don’t believe they received enough.

In my view, the number one purpose of earning money and acquiring assets over a lifetime is to take care of oneself first and foremost. What you leave to your children afterwards is something you earned. That point should be emphasized to one’s children.

Many believe today that the best estate plans remove the cost burden of education and medical expenses for one’s children or grandchildren, provide support where needed and incentives to do more with their lives.

More next week.

© 2013 George Warshaw.  George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, litigates real estate matters, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions.

Marriage and Real Estate

5 Feb

MetroBoston Publication Date February 5, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

State law provides married couples a special form of home ownership protection. It’s referred to as a “tenancy by the entirety.” It’s like a joint tenancy but for married couples.

It’s created by simply stating in the deed, “I grant to Dick and Jane, husband and wife (or being a married couple), as tenants by the entirety, the following property . . . .”

What’s special about it?

Real estate acquired under the heading “tenants by the entirety” is similar to a joint tenancy in one sense: if one person dies the other inherits it automatically. A probate court is not required to pass title to the survivor.

Marital property held this way has two special features: first, a creditor of only one spouse cannot seize and sell the marital home so long as it is the principal residence of the other spouse; and second, neither spouse can eliminate the right of the other to inherit the property by merely giving a deed to a child or an outsider.  

There are several exceptions that may make a visit to a lawyer worthwhile. If you acquired your martial home before February 11, 1980 or were originally deeded your home as joint tenants or tenants in common, consult a real estate lawyer to upgrade your ownership. © 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 metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

 

Owing Real Estate as Joint Tenants

31 Jan

MetroBoston Publication Date January 31, 2013
By Attorney George Warshaw

Two or more people can own real estate together in several ways. One of the most common is as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.”

A joint tenancy is a form of ownership by which a person’s ownership rights in property pass to one’s co-owners upon death.

Ordinarily, when a person dies the heirs must go through the probate court to obtain certification of an inheritance of real estate. Property owned or held as “joint tenants” avoids probate because the property transfer is automatic upon death.

Simply file the death certificate with the Registry of Deeds and the transfer of legal ownership become complete and noted in the official records. Nothing more is necessary to effectuate the transfer of title ownership.

A joint tenancy in real property is established by the initial words of transfer used in the deed. “I grant to Fred and Wilma Flintstone the following property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship . . . .” is how it is typically phrased.

Can one joint tenant deed his or her interest without the consent of the others? Yes. One joint tenant always has the right to transfer his or her ownership interest without the permission of the other – but the automatic inheritance right is usually lost upon the transfer. © 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 metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

 

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 metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

 

WHO SHOULD YOU TELL ABOUT YOUR WILL

1 Nov

MetroBoston Publication Date October 31, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Other than your spouse and your lawyer, should you tell anyone else?

Think thrice before you do. It may go against your compelling desire to let others know about their inheritances, but I say this from experience: people often change their minds when it comes to money and property, especially later in life, and more especially if they remarry.

Create an expectation that doesn’t come true, and you may leave someone with badly injured feelings or ill thoughts of you.

The purpose of a will may be to leave money and property to someone, but there is another purpose, rarely considered, but as important in my view – avoiding family strife and discord that often follows a surprising inheritance or disinheritance after one’s death.

Take your children for example. Once you’re dead you won’t be able to fix hurt feelings if an inheritance doesn’t match your promise or their expectations.

And we’ve all heard the stories of families torn apart after an older parent remarries and promised inheritances go to someone else’s children. Use your will to promote family harmony and a positive memory of you.

So be careful what you disclose if you decide to tell all.  Contact me if you need help with your planning. ©2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a well-known attorney and legal author . He practices real estate and estate planning, assisting buyers and sellers of homes and condos and preparing wills and trusts. Send him your thoughts and comments at metro@warshawlaw.com.

 

Medicaid – The 5 Year Lookback Rule

13 Apr

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: April 11, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Last in a Medicaid series

I’ve never met anyone who would rather give his or her money to the government than leave it for one’s children, heirs or charity. The government never has as well.

To combat the natural inclination of giving away one’s money and property to qualify for free nursing home care, Medicaid, like in hockey, has a penalty box.

If you impermissibly give away your assets in Medicaid’s eyes, the whistle blows, you are disqualified from further play and placed in the penalty box.

The penalty? Medicaid takes the value of your gift and divides it by the average monthly cost of nursing home care. The result is the number of months you must sit in the penalty box before you can apply again.

There is a safe harbor though, as lawyers like to say, where you can permissibly make a gift and avoid the penalty box: make that gift more than 5 years before you apply for Medicaid and your gift is usually safe.

Your gift is then no longer a countable asset on the government’s list of assets that you must sell and spend before you can qualify for care.

Be careful! Always consult an Elder Care Attorney for your particular Medicaid situation. © George Warshaw 2012.

Read the Medicaid series at www.GeorgeintheMetro.com

George Warshaw is a real estate 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 at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

Love and Kisses until Your House is Gone

15 Mar

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: March 14, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

It’s like a scene from “The Bachelor.”

It’s all love and kisses, “til death do us part,” and syrup on the pancakes – until reality sinks in. It’s back to the daily job and routine daily life? Does anyone get or stay married?

Is it any different when an older parent deeds the family home to one’s kids for love and affection? “We’ll use it to take care of you – and the government won’t get it!”

But the deed’s in someone else’s name! What if son or daughter gets divorced, sick or sued? Or if son or daughter needs personal money and borrows against the house – temporarily, of course?

One way of protecting a home is through a trust. A trust is a set of rules constructed by a lawyer to accomplish a goal or protect an asset, oftentimes both.

The trustees own the house on behalf of the trust and not personally – and a parent can name a trusted advisor as co-trustee who can have veto power on the sale or mortgaging of the home.

The house is thus protected from unnecessary sale or mortgage and the personal creditors of the son or daughter.

Caution: Check with a Medicaid attorney before transferring property out of an older parent’s name.

George Warshaw is a real estate and estate planning attorney in Massachusetts. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts for individuals and families. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

________________________________________________________________

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.