Q: We want to change the title of our house to my niece who lives in Switzerland. She is separated from her husband. Would that be a problem?
A: You might want to rethink that plan. There’s no reason to change the title over to your niece, particularly since she doesn’t live in this country.
If your goal is to make sure she receives the property after your death, the easiest thing to do would be to set up a living trust, put the title to the property into the trust, and name her as the sole beneficiary. That way, you’re leaving her an inheritance (which she receives at the current market value of the date of your death and not as a gift on which she — or you — may owe gift taxes). This also helps if she is getting separated from her spouse. You wouldn’t want to give a gift that could possibly be construed as being part of the marital estate.
Please consult with an estate attorney or accountant before you do anything.
Jan. 19, 2009.