I’m constantly hearing from clients that tell me about avoiding probate by placing their home in joint tenancy with their child. After all, everybody’s doing it!
If you create a joint tenancy in your home with your child, then your child’s problems will soon become your problems. What are some of the potential problems you might face in the future if you title your home in joint tenancy with your child?
The current divorce rate is about 50%. If your daughter and her husband end up in divorce, your son-in-law could claim that your daughter’s half of the assets is an asset that is subject to division in their divorce.
If your daughter and son-in-law incur any income tax liabilities, watch out. The first thing the IRS will do is attach a lien against any real property in either of their names including the house if it has your daughter’s name on it.
If your daughter declares bankruptcy without factoring in the effect it will have on your real estate, you may have forgotten that you gave 50% of your property to her by creating a joint tenancy. When you put your daughter on title, nothing was required of her. When your daughter declares bankruptcy, the creditors come knocking on your door and you may be surprised as now the house is subject to a bankruptcy proceeding.
If your daughter and your son-in-law are in a car accident and they don’t have enough liability coverage, the accident victim may go to court to get a judgment lien against your daughter’s half of your house. The victim could turn this judgment lien into cash by forcing a sale your home.
If your daughter and your son-in-law have creditor problems, their creditors could put a lien on your daughter’s half of the house. Here again the creditors could force a sale of your home to turn their creditors’ lien into cash.
Once you have made your child a joint tenant to your property and your child subsequently has a creditor problem, your child cannot avoid this debt by simply transferring her share back to you. The creditor can set aside that transfer and take the child’s share to satisfy her debt.
The solution here is to avoid probate with the concept of a simple revocable living trust. The trust allows you to retain full ownership of your real estate, stocks, and bank accounts. At your passing, your estate passes outright and free of trust to your children. The lesson here is don’t add your as a joint tenant to your house, otherwise your child’s problems will become your problems.