How a Trust Can Help Protect and Pass Real Estate to Your Heirs

You may think that trusts and estate plans are only for the wealthy, but if you own real estate (including the home you live in) then your family could benefit from the protection and direction a revocable living trust provides. When it comes to real estate, a revocable living trust provides a benefit to your family and heirs in a number of ways; not the least of which is giving you as the owner/grantor flexibility and options for the preservation or distribution of your valuable property.

A recent article in the U.S. News and World Report Money Section describes four different ways to use a revocable living trust to pass your real property on to your heirs. Which of these strategies you may choose to employ (or if you choose to employ a different strategy) will depend largely on the value of the property, the purpose of the property, and the legacy you want to leave to your heirs.

If your property is your primary residence you may choose to have your trustees sell the property and distribute the proceeds equally between your children. If your children are still minors the home can be kept in trust for them to live in with their guardians, or until they come of age and choose to sell the property and split the proceeds. Furthermore, if you are married or in a committed relationship, “It’s not uncommon… for bequests to include a provision allowing a surviving spouse to stay in the home until they die or move out, and then convey the home to children or sell it.”

If your property is a vacation home you can have the deed held by the trust itself, with your children as trustees. This gives your loved ones the opportunity to keep the property in the family for as long as they would choose to use it, with no one person having more ownership or responsibility than another. Alternatively, through a trust you can “give a named heir the option to purchase the home and, if he or she declines, this option is then conveyed to a second named heir and so on. ‘These options can keep going down to other children or descendants.’”

If your property has been in your family for generations you can use a trust to specify that ownership or trusteeship passes down through a family line, protecting the property from the effects of possible divorce or remarriage. “It could transfer the house to one or more family members, for example, with instructions that the home is never to be sold or must stay within the family under certain terms. Such a trust will continue to exist after your death and your appointed trustee will have continuing obligations.”

If your property is a second or third property you may wish to donate the property itself—or the proceeds from the sale of the property—to a favorite charity. A trust can be used to “convey the home or instruct the trustee to sell it and donate the proceeds to the named charity. The trust also could include provisions to allow a surviving spouse or other family members to use the residence for a period and then convey it to the charity.”

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