So you want to give your home to your children during your lifetime; maybe you need their help taking care of the home, or just want to reward them for all the parental love they’ve given you. Either way, there are some things to consider before you sign the deed: once the home is signed over to the kids, it becomes their asset and is potentially subject to attachment (a lien) by their creditors, and, additionally, the gift could impact your ability to apply for Medicaid benefits.
However, if you want to proceed with giving your home to your children, there are several ways to go about it. First you could make an outright gift of the home, simply by deeding it to your children. If you deed your entire interest in the home at one time, you can reduce your unified federal gift and estate tax exemption by the value of the home, and also avoid payment of a gift tax. Alternatively, you could deed partial interests in the home over time, and using your $14,000.00 annual gift tax exclusion; by annually gifting a percentage which is no greater than $14,000.00, you avoid incurring any additional tax. If you are married, both you and your spouse could use your $14,000.00 exemption and transfer $28,000.00 of value each year to each such child. Keep in mind, however, that any gift of your home to your children simply passes along your tax basis in the home, which increases the odds he or she will owe capital gains tax on a later sale.
Or, you could simply stay put, and devise it to your children by virtue of your Last Will & Testament. If you do this, your home’s tax basis will be stepped up to its fair market value as of the date of your death. You and your heirs will escape capital gains tax on the appreciation that occurs up to that date. If your children later sell the home they will owe tax only on the additional appreciation in its value from the date of your death until the time it is sold. Often times this is the most advantageous tax method of getting the home to your children, however it does mean that home is subject to attachment by your creditors after your death, including Medicaid.
Third, you can transfer the home to a Trust (there are various types and some protect the property against Medicaid, while others do not). By the Trust you could transfer the home outright to the children or you could retain ownership during your life with it passing to the children at your death. Like the methods above the type of Trust you choose can have tax consequences to your estate or to your children.
Before making the decision to transfer your home to your children it is best to consult with your attorney and tax planner to take advantage of the most advantageous method given your financial and tax circumstances.