How can my parents be sure that their property stays with in the family?

5 answers | Last updated: Sep 27, 2016
Paula a. asked...

My father has been diagnosed with advanced cancer. My mother is in poor health and also we have been seeing some signs indicating possible mental health issues with her. Parents want to arrange transfer of their land and house out of their names before Dad passes away. They are not fond of my husband. They also state they fear if I die before my husband that my share of the inheritance would not be passed on to their granddaughter (stepchild to my current husband). Also they fear regardless of who dies first that his side of the family will try to claim that which is intended for their granddaughter.

Short of excluding me from inheritance and trusting my sister to give my daughter fair share what sort of legal instrumentation can be put into effect? Basically parents wish the land to pass along bloodlines (including adopted children) and to not lose the property by following marriage lines.


Expert Answers

Judy and Fred co-mediate family property and financial conflicts, and each work individually as mediators as well. Judy Barber, a mediator and family business consultant, assists clients in resolving overlapping family and money conflicts so they are better able to make sound estate planning decisions. Frederick Hertz is an attorney and mediator who specializes in resolving co-ownership matters involving families, siblings, spouses, cohabitants and domestic partners.

There are two aspects of your question: deciding what really makes sense for all of you as a family, and then helping your parents to set up the legal structure that meets their needs and concerns. The legal mechanics are the easier part of this challenge. Your parents can set up a trust that gives a "life estate" to you (and your siblings) but pre-determines who gets your shares upon your deaths. Most likely there is a way for them to keep the property in the "bloodline" of the family if that is their preference. However, in most states there is a limit on the number of generations of control that they can exercise. They should be consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain to them, and to everyone else in the family, the technical aspects of this sort of arrangement, and its downsides.

But the bigger challenge is figuring out what really is best for the family in the long term, and what arrangement is least likely to create animosity in the future. We suggest that you convene a family meeting as soon as possible, with your parents' estate planning lawyer participating in the meeting. You all should acknowledge that the ultimate decision-makers are your parents, but they should be aware of everyone's concerns before they make their decisions. A family meeting is the best way to air these concerns in a non-adversarial manner, with everyone focused as a member of "the team" to find a solution that works best for everyone in the family.


Community Answers

Paula a. answered...

I have no problem in being excluded from inheritance. Right now I just want them to not have the burden of worry. Parents, sister and I have sat down and talked about this. I would be glad to hand sister cash to pay the land taxes and such without having a name on the deed/titles.

At this point a lawyer who specializes in this has said one way is to make a will that gives all to sister, Mom signs an acknowledgement of that. Supposedly that also will allow Mom to have Medicaid care sooner.


Donoharm answered...

With all respect, but having assets handed over with "supposedly that also will allow Mom to have Medicaid care sooner" doesn't sit well with me. Is this the new 'non-greedy' that we have in this country today? I've heard too many times how giving assets away to ensure help from Medicaid is a strategy. I find this shameful and not enough of an excuse, i.e. "everybody is doing it." That's our tax money paying for that underhanded trick. In our Sr. housing, the parking lot is loaded with new autos, the mostly women tenants are dressed and coiffed to the hilt for their lunches at nice restaurants and yet, they live in apartments subsidized by the govt. How well we are teaching the next generation. Well, this is disgraceful. Medicaid was meant to be used for the indigent, not those hiding their accummulated wealth. For shame.


Paula a. answered...

In this case there are no new autos in the drive, no high end clothes or coiffed to the hilt. Many times parents are facing the real worry on paying the electric bill or buying food. What you see in your own area is not what is happening to my parents.

For shame on YOU for denigrating my parents!

If they went to one of those fancy care centers I doubt they would have money to even buy their food and medicines.


Donoharm answered...

Sorry Paula, I didn't mean to denigrate your parents. I was meaning to denigrate the system that allows this transfer of assets. It's also a country-wide shakedown.