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Right in Redford

  • Posted on September 7, 2016 at 9:14 am

Dear Christine,

I’ve lived with my partner for 10 years. She moved into a house I already owned. An issue has recently come up about the house. She wants to be put on the title.  I understand that if something were to happen to me that she would want the security of staying in the home we share, however, I have a daughter who I’ve always planned to leave the house to. I have never acquired much in the way of wealth but there is $100k equity in the home and I want to leave it to my daughter.  I’ve made that clear.  Am I in the right with this?

Sincerely,

Right in Redford

Dear Right,

You are right.  It’s your property and your call, your priorities and your wishes.  That’s what wills are all about.  Is it fair?  Is it what is best?  Your partner has other ideas.  If you legally marry your partner, she automatically is on the deed and is your legal next of kin, should you die.  And if you decide to sell the house when you are legally married to your partner, you both have to be at the closing and sign those dozens of papers.

Since you are not legally married, your daughter is your next of kin, so legally she will get the house (after probate court if you don’t leave a will).  If you sell the house now, you are the only one who has to be at closing, as you are the only owner.

However, there is another way!  Which is why we have a lawyer also answering this question.  You can draw up a will where both your partner and your daughter get the house!  See below for Daniel Gwinn, Esq, “Ask a Lawyer” answer below.

A will can specify exactly what you want done with your estate after you die.  You can use a will to make a statement, such as cutting a “black sheep” child out of the will while leaving all the good children in, if you had a lot of children.  I just read about a man who never spent his money and when he died, his family learned that he had amassed $8,000,000!  But he also left a will and did not leave that fortune to anyone in the family!

I know someone who complains bitterly that her partner is leaving their house to her in the will, but is leaving most of the other investments to the children.  This person complains that those adult children will be better off financially than she will be, when her partner dies.  There is a will, but there is not a legal marriage.

Think carefully about what you want to convey to those left behind when you die.  And make a will!  These are tough conversations, but better to have them while you can, and be clear about what your priorities are for those you leave behind.  After all, all that is guaranteed in life is death, and taxes.

Take care,

Christine Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist

LAWYER ANSWER:  Your emotional ties of loyalty with your partner and your child, must, of course, be part of your analysis in deciding your best course of action. As for the legal choices available to you, one option you should consider would be to grant your partner a life estate in your property.  This would give your partner, who would be called a “life tenant” the right to live in the residence until she dies or moves out.  Your daughter would be the remainderman/ owner of the house, but she would not get full rights until your partner’s interest ends. By setting up a life estate, you can ensure your partner may continue to live in the home after your death, but she will have no rights of ownership. In effect, she becomes a tenant, and your daughter becomes the landlord (except, that she may not charge rent).

Generally the life tenant is responsible for paying the mortgage, interest, taxes, and insurance on the property, and must not “waste” the property, meaning he/she must keep the property in good repair. The remaindermen may not dispose or encumber the property in a way that would be at odds with the interests of the life tenant (and vice versa).  As a bonus, transferring ownership via a life estate will avoid probate.

Creating a life tenancy, whether by deed or trust, has advantages and potential issues that extend beyond this discussion. You might want to explore both the pros and cons, along with any other options that may be available to you with your lawyer.  The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at www.gwinntauriainenlaw.com.