Q: My dad passed away in 2009, and yet his name is still on the title to my parents’ property as well as a mortgage and home equity line of credit. My mother is elderly and has many health problems.

Should she do a quit claim deed to me (their only child)? And if so, if she passes away what will happen to the loans she has on her home?

A: It’s unfortunate that your elderly parents have had to contend with two mortgages on their property. If your mom and dad owned the property jointly, your mother became the sole owner of the home when your father died – whether or not the “title” still shows your father’s name.

But don’t have your mother do a quit claim deed and transfer the property to you before she dies.

This is a common mistake that many elderly parents make. Their goal is noble – to avoid having their children go through probate with the property. But what winds up happening is that you receive the property at the price she and your father paid for it years ago. You won’t get the stepped-up basis that’s available to you if you inherit the property, so the tax consequences could be significant.

While tax laws may change, if you receive the property as a gift, the cost of the gift to you is the amount that your parents paid on the home. Traditionally, when parents die and leave their homes to their children, the children can immediately sell the homes and not pay tax on that sale. These children inherit the property and receive the property as it is valued at or around the time of the death of the owner of the property.

If you want to do something to make your life easier after your mom passes away, either put the property in a trust (which will eliminate the probate issue altogether) or have her leave it to you in her will. If your mother retains control of the property, she can sell it and then use the money as she pleases.

For more details, and for help in setting up the trust, please talk to an estate attorney or estate planner.