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All real estate investors need to consider what to do with all of their real estate assets when estate planning. After all, the last thing you want is to have your will end up in probate court, where it could be years before your estate settles. With that in mind, here are some options on how to include real estate investments in your will.
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Motley Fool’s recent article entitled “How to Include Real Estate Investments in Your Will” details some options that might make sense for you and your intended beneficiaries.

A living trust. A revocable living trust allows you to transfer any deeds into the trust’s name. While you’re still living, you’d be the trustee and be able to change the trust in whatever way you wanted. Trusts are a little more costly and time consuming to set up than wills, so you’ll need to hire an experienced estate planning attorney to help. Once it’s done, the trust will let your trustee transfer any trust assets quickly and easily, while avoiding the probate process.

LLC (Limited Liability Company).  This is often the most popular choice and for good reason.  Here are main perks of an LLC:

  • Enhanced liability protection for assets & from other member’s libelous acts​

  • Flexible management, easy ownership succession & privacy enhancer​​

  • Premier vehicle for holding appreciating assets, such as real estate (including farms), stock portfolios, and investment properties

  • Extraordinary flexibility in the ability to allocate profits and losses to members in varying amounts

Missouri Farm AttorneyA beneficiary deed. This is also known as a “transfer-on-death deed.” It’s a process that involves getting a second deed to each property that you own. The beneficiary deed won’t impact your ownership of the property while you’re alive, but it will let you to make a specific beneficiary designation for each property in your portfolio. After your death, the individual executing your estate plan will be able to transfer ownership of each asset to its designated beneficiary. However, not all states allow for this method of transferring ownership. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about the laws in your state.

Co-ownership. You can also pass along real estate assets without probate, if you co-own the property with your designated beneficiary. You’d change the title for the property to list your beneficiary as a joint tenant with right of survivorship. The property will then automatically by law pass directly to your beneficiary when you die. Note that any intended beneficiaries will have an ownership interest in the property from the day you put them on the deed. This means that you’ll have to consult with them, if you want to sell the property.

Wills and estate plans can feel like a ghoulish topic that requires considerable effort. However, it is worth doing the work now to avoid having your estate go through the probate process once you die. The probate process can be expensive and lengthy. It’s even more so, when real estate is involved.

Reference: Motley Fool (June 22, 2020) “How to Include Real Estate Investments in Your Will”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Probate Court, Inheritance, Asset Protection, Trustee, Revocable Living Trust, Beneficiary Deed, Transfer-On-Death Deed, Beneficiary Designation, Joint Tenancy

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