Q: My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago. She is currently in an assisted living residence.
I have power of attorney over all of her financial affairs and have handled all of her bills. She has officially been declared unable to handle her finances by her physician. The only thing I have not taken care of is the ownership of her home, which is free of a mortgage.
Can I use a quit claim deed to have it transferred into my name? I don’t want there to be any more problems than necessary when she passes away.
Thank you for your help.
A: There are many things you should consider before transferring the home from your mothers name to your name. If possible, avoid transferring the home into your own name while your mother is still alive.
You might want to consider selling your mother’s home since she is not going to move back into it if she has Alzheimer’s. If you don’t want to sell the home, you should consider transferring title to the property into a trust. The trust will then name you (or her other heirs) as beneficiary. When she dies, title to the property will bypass probate but you will be able to take advantage of any step-up in the basis – depending if the estate tax permits a step-up in value at the time of her death – that is available through the IRS or your state tax laws.
If you transfer title to yourself, you will receive it at the current cost basis, which would probably be the price she paid for the home plus any capital improvements.
Once the property is in a trust, you can rent it or keep it.
There is quite a bit of uncertainty relating to estate tax laws. Your situation may involve an expensive home that has enjoyed a lot of appreciation. On the other hand, the home may be mortgage-free but may not have had much appreciation over the years.
Depending on the value of the home, what you want to do with the home, whether there are other siblings involved and whether you could sell the home in this market are all issues you should discuss with a professional.
Discuss the situation with an estate attorney or an elder law attorney to make sure that all loose ends are tied up, and you won’t be causing problems for yourself or your mom down the line should she need government assistance.
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