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Is It Better to Use Joint Ownership or a Trust to Pass Down a Home?

Posted by Brad Sarkauskas | Mar 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

You may be wondering about how to pass your home to your spouse, children or other beneficiaries after you die. A will works, but that will require them to go through the probate process, which may take a considerable amount of time and money. There are estate plan alternatives that allow the bypass of the probate process to ensure a faster, easier transition that will also be less expensive for the beneficiary.

Two Ways to Transfer

A will is just one way to pass along your house. Joint ownership and revocable living trusts allow you to pass along your home, live in it while you're alive, and make sure your assets go where you want them to.  

Joint ownership and revocable living trusts are not necessarily replacements for a will; you should still create a will as a backup to carry out final wishes and pass along any other property that isn't in a trust or other probate avoidance.

What is Joint Ownership?

If you and your spouse (or anyone else) jointly own a house and the “right of survivorship” is included in that ownership, the house will automatically pass to the other individual upon your death without probate. Your spouse will be required to file paperwork to claim ownership.

Wisconsin offers two types of joint ownership:

  • Joint ownership, where two or more parties own an equal share. This works well for couples who acquire property together, and each owns a half-interest. However, this will not avoid probate for the remaining party, or if the two parties were to die simultaneously. However, you'll be giving away property, and if the other party were to be sued by a creditor, and the property may be sold to pay the debt.
  • Survivorship marital property, known in other states as “community property,” where the surviving spouse inherits any joint property. This does not include any property that's not part of the marital estate, such as anything kept as separate property.

What Does Using a Revocable Trust Mean?

A revocable living trust is created while you're alive, and revocable because you can make changes as you wish as long as you're able to. This written document can be used for your house as well as other assets, such as bank accounts, other real estate, and vehicles.

A minimum of three parties participate in a trust:

  • The settlor or grantor who creates the trust (you). Your spouse may also be a trustee.
  • The Trustee, the person or persons who accept the property from the trust and manage it according to the trust. That's you while you're alive, and whomever you assign after you die. You can have multiple co-trustees, if you like.
  • Beneficiaries are the individuals who receive income from the trust's property, and if directed, the property as well.

Heritage Law is Here to Help

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. Joint ownerships and trusts are available to anyone but aren't a “one-size-fits-all” option. An experienced estate planning attorney who understands both can help you decide which one is right for your specific circumstances.

The Milwaukee estate planning lawyers at Heritage Law Office have over 20 years of experience helping families make crucial decisions with long-term effects. Ensure that your good intentions of leaving property for an inheritance are not clouded by unseen external factors. We can help ensure that you make the most favorable decision for yourself and your loved ones. Contact us today at 414-253 8500 for a free case evaluation.

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Bradley J. Sarkauskas, Attorney-at-Law

About the Author

Brad Sarkauskas

As the founding member of the Heritage Law Office of Wisconsin, LLC, attorney Brad Sarkauskas is equipped with the tools--through his extensive background in finance--to effectively represent his clients legal economic interests. With over 20 years of experience in finance, insurance, and taxati...


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