Can I amend a life estate?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I changed my deed into a life estate, adding my children. Can I amend the deed to have someone added or removed?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

To backtrack just a bit, while you may have a good reason for wanting to change the title to your house this way -- and it may actually be the very best option for you -- many estate planners would warn against this approach in many situations.

Common concerns might be that in such a situation, your home:

  • may not be protected from creditors or may lose its homestead protection
  • may be disqualified from Medicaid if you later become a nursing home resident
  • may be treated as a gift in the eyes of the IRS -- and subject to federal gift taxes, penalties, and Interest that your children might be required to pay
  • may not be able to be easily sold during your lifetimes should you want the money to help improve your quality of life, travel, or pay for necessary medical care.

With those concerns in mind, it might be worth the investment to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure this is your best arrangement and to discuss other options. He or she should also be able to advise about amending the deed if that does remain your route of choice.