Leaving Kids as Co-owners of Property
Good Idea or Big Mistake?
When Mom died, she left ownership of her home to me and my sister. We both live in the home. My partner, Billy, also lives in the home. My sister told Billy that he must start paying her rent. She said that if he doesn’t pay rent that she will evict him from our home. Can this even be possible? This is not the harmony I think Mom expected when she left the house to us.
As a co-owner, you are either a “joint tenant” or “tenant in common.” That means you can have guests. Your sister may not like having Billy under the roof, but there is nothing she can do about it. You don’t even have to pay taxes or upkeep if you are joint tenants with rights of survivorship.
Many folks want to give house, land, cottage, farm “to the kids.” Then Mom makes the Big Mistake. Mom somehow believes the co-owner kids will “get along.” So, Mom “puts the kids on the deed” directly or through her will or trust. It is worse now with many folks doing so-called “ladybird” deeds.
Lady bird deeds transfer ownership on the original owner’s death. Lady bird deeds do avoid probate. They are said to be “Medicaid friendly.” But after Mom dies, there are no rules. Each person named on the deed has an “undivided interest” in the property. Each person can use the property at all times. This way lies madness!
Sometimes the deed states “joint tenants with rights of survivorship.” As the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre observed, “There is No Exit.” You cannot go to court to end the insanity. If you were to give your share to the others, Medicaid will penalize you. And the others may not want your share and don’t have to take it.
Sometimes the deed simply states all the kids’ names in a row. No “joint tenant” language. Good news! Now the kids can sue each other for “partition.” They must prove to the Court’s satisfaction that they cannot cooperate. Then the Court will order a sale and division of what’s left after court costs and attorney fees.
Blessing or Curse? An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. Want family harmony? Want to keep the family house, land, farm, cottage? Better to explore all the possible “What if’s” and set it up properly ahead of time.