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How to Include Your Home in Estate Planning

May 17, 2019

Chester County Wills and Estates Lawyers discuss including your home in estate planning. A family home is one of the largest assets that a person owns. The emotional ties to the home can dramatically increase the worth to heirs of an estate. Deciding how to include a home in an estate plan can be a complicated process. Working with an experienced estate lawyer can ensure that the home is passed down in the most cost-efficient way.

Leaving a Home to Heirs in a Will

When a person dies and wishes to pass the family home onto a beneficiary, they can specify their wishes in their last will and testament. Upon death, the will must go through the probate process through the court system. The executor of the will must first receive a letter of testamentary confirming their position as executor, then supply the will to the surrogate in the probate office in the county where the deceased lived.

The surrogate reviews the validity of the will and confirms that it is legally sound.  The deceased’s intentions in the will are processed and the home becomes the property of the beneficiary named in the will. Complications during the probate process often result in costly and long delays. When heirs contest the will or there is a legal issue connected with the estate, the process of probating can become arduous, and the value of the home can fluctuate during that time.

Avoiding Probate

There are several ways that an individual can leave a home to beneficiaries, including:

Revocable Trust: A revocable trust allows an individual to control their assets and home ownership during their lifetime, and designate beneficiaries for their home at the time of death, with specific instructions on when the inheritor receives the property. In this scenario, the inheritor bypasses the probate process entirely. Most of the costs associated with this trust fall on the grantor, who must rely on the assistance of an estate lawyer to draw up the trust.

Transfer on Death (TOD) Deed: A TOD deed designates heirs to the property and does not require probate. TOD deeds are not available in every state and limit the grantor’s heirs to individuals and charities. A TOD cannot be included in a trust and offers no contingencies. This means that when you outlive an heir, the property does not automatically pass down to the heir’s children. In this situation, the TOD would need to be rewritten to include new beneficiaries.

Joint Tenancy or Community Property: When the title to your home is held in joint tenancy or community property with a right of survivorship, two co-owners are designated as equal owners of the property. The right of survivorship means that if one co-owner dies, their half of the property automatically goes to the other co-owner and not the family or children of the deceased’s beneficiary.   

Chester County Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Offer a Full Range of Estate Planning Services

If you are considering an estate plan that includes your home, the Chester County wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. Call us today at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania offices serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.

A Message to Our Customers About Coronavirus COVID-19:
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A Message to Our Clients About Coronavirus COVID-19:

We want to assure everyone that during this unprecedented and difficult time, we are still operating and will continue to meet all the legal needs of the residents of the Delaware Valley. While the Governor’s recent orders have restricted the operations of some businesses, Eckell Sparks has deployed a variety of applications and hardware that allows both our attorneys and our support staff to confer with clients remotely, provide consultations to those seeking legal advice, and continue to provide the high level of legal services to our clients as we have always done. For more than 50 years, our Firm has been a force in the Delaware Valley legal community. And by now also leveraging technology, we will continue to do so both during, and after, the current public health emergency.

So, if you need us, we are here. Are you an employer and don’t know what to do under all the new Corona-virus laws being passed in Washington? Were you injured in a car accident either before, or during, the current crisis? Call or email us. We can help. www.eckellsparks.com 610-565-3700.

Stay safe out there.