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Making The Complex Understandable

Children may fight if you leave them your home

You have a firstborn son and a younger daughter. Your spouse passed away five years ago. You're getting your own estate planning in order to help pass your assets on to the children.

The biggest asset you own is your house. You raised the kids there. You have owned it for decades. The children still come home for Christmas. You add the house to your will, saying 50 percent ownership should go to your son and 50 percent should go to your daughter.

Is this wise?

A potential rift

Certainly, this is one of the most common ways to pass the house on to the children, but you should consider the rift it may create in their relationship. Are they going to have the same ideas about what they should do with the house? If they do not see eye-to-eye, are they going to argue and fight over it? Will this fight land them in court, potentially ruining their relationship?

Experts warn that this does happen. You had good intentions when you left the house to the kids, but they may have unintended consequences.

Selling or keeping

The biggest sticking point may be whether to sell the house or keep it. After all, your children are old enough to have their own homes. They don't technically need yours. What will they do with it?

Sell

For instance, perhaps your house is worth $600,000 in the current market. Your daughter has $100,000 in student loans from when she went back to grad school. She has a $50,000 car loan. She has her own mortgage, which she still owes $150,000 on. She's been planning a vacation to Europe, but the other debt she has makes it impossible.

For her, the house is a golden ticket. If they sell it, she can use her $300,000 to pay off the student loans, the car loan and her own mortgage. She'll suddenly have no debt. It's a place she thought she would not reach for years, maybe decades. She'll be there instantly and she can finally take that trip she has been planning.

Keep

Your son, on the other hand, has no debt. He lives modestly in a house he built himself. He went to college, but he paid it off years ago.

He wants to keep your house. He doesn't plan to move into it, but he loves that house. He loves the memories of growing up there. It's on the water, so he wants to use it as a vacation home. For him, this is a way to honor his parents' memory and get the second home he can't afford on his own.

The problem

Obviously, this potentially volatile situation can pit your children against one another. Make sure you know all of your estate planning options to keep that from happening.

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