Revocable Trusts: Holding on to a Cherished Family Home

Estate planning involves a wide variety of choices, depending on a client's assets and intentions as well as what is achievable under probate and estate laws. The more challenging these goals, the more likely that an estate planning attorney will recommend one of the many options available for establishing a trust to carry out specific wishes and avoid probate and estate taxes.

An individual or couple's primary residence is often the most substantial asset they own, and its emotional value can be just as significant. For that reason, many clients want to explore options for holding on to a home through retirement and passing it - or its specific value as an asset - along to children or other heirs.

Several types of revocable trusts may help them achieve that goal. In this context, "revocable" means that the trust can be changed prior to death if circumstances demand. A few key strategies that employ revocable trusts include:

  • Creating legacy provisions that provide the home to a specific family member upon death with limits on future transferability, potentially including a fund for maintenance and other expenses
  • Using a trust to carry out the legal transfer of the deed to an heir, who then must take on all expenses regarding title perfection and other real estate matters
  • Creating a trust that gives the property to a charitable organization, including a land trust or a group that would benefit from its value after sale
  • Building options into the revocable trust to allow a prioritized list of family members a chance to purchase the home if they are interested and able

Trusts do not have to be complex estate planning instruments, and even people who own a modest home can employ a strategy that suits their ambitions and means. Options such as AB living trusts allow married individuals to enjoy the benefits of the trust structure while allowing the surviving spouse to remain in the home for life.

As varied as an estate planning client's trust options may be, they are far exceeded by the many unique details of each person's circumstances that influence the best choice. For that reason, advice from a trusts and estates lawyer can provide significant insights about the proper course. An attorney can also provide trust administration services to carry out a client's wishes in the role of trustee after his or her death.