Dear Mr. Azrael:
I am now 70 years old and need some guidance as to the best way to handle my property. I live in Howard County with a 42-year-old son who suffers from schizophrenia. With SSI disability benefits and Medicare, he gets along fairly well.
I also have three other grown children. I'd like to keep the house in the family and my son continue to receive his disability SSI and Medicare. I'd also like to know that I could sell my home 10 years down the road if I want to. I have Type 2 diabetes. If someday I had to go into a nursing home, I wouldn't want my home taken by the state.
I've heard of life-estate deeds, quitclaim deeds, and trusts. I'd like to get documents prepared that would not be a financial burden to my children and avoid recordation, transfer tax or inheritance tax.
Do I just make out a will and leave the house to all four children? Should I do this now or later?
Dear Ms. Makofski:
Your main goal is to keep your home in the family, so your disabled son can continue to live there after you die or have to go into a nursing home.
One way to accomplish your objective is to transfer your assets, including your home, to a revocable trust. You can act as trustee of your trust until you become mentally disabled or die, and you can have complete control of the trust income and assets. You can sell the home any time you wish. There are no state transfer or recordation taxes assessed on the transfer of your home to a revocable trust.
The revocable trust document would spell out what will happen to the home after your demise. For instance, the home could remain in trust for the use and benefit of your disabled son. No state inheritance taxes would be assessed on bequests or testamentary gifts to children.
There are also legal options that may allow you to protect the home for the benefit of your disabled son, even if your nursing home bills were paid by the state. An attorney experienced in elder law and estate planning can assist you in implementing an estate plan consistent with your goals.
It's important to consider all of your assets in working out an overall estate plan. A piecemeal approach, limited to the transfer of your home, is not the best solution.