It is much easier to add a child’s name, or your girlfriend (boyfriend’s) name on the title to real estate, than it is to remove that name on a real estate document.
Consent Required. If you need to remove a joint tenant’s name from title to real estate, you have to get that person to sign a quit claim deed that ends their ownership of that piece of real estate. For example, a joint tenant must sign the quit claim deed in front of a notary conveying the real estate back to the original owner. Children can be one set of problems, but ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends may hold grudges and may want money or something else to bargain for the release their interest in real estate.
Gift Tax and Income Tax Issues. Gift Tax Issues: Adding child’s name or a girl/boyfriend’s name on the title to real estate legally is a gift of 1/2 Fair Market Value of the property. If, for example, Mom owns a house worth $50,000 and adds daughter’s name on the deed. That is an immediate gift of $25,000 to the daughter. Since that $25,000 is greater than the $14,000 annual gift exclusion for the current year, a Gift Tax Return should be filed for the $11,000 that exceeds this annual gift tax exclusion amount. There is a legal obligation to file a US Gift Tax Return, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this short blog.
Donor’s Tax Basis: Making a gift of real or personal property, the law says that the donee – receiver of the gift – receives the same tax basis as the donor – the person who gives the gift. That means that – using the same example – Mom bought a house in 1970 for $50,000. In 2010, Mom adds the daughter’s name on the deed. Mom dies and daughter sells the house in 2020 for $125,000. The daughter will have to pay capital gains tax for amounts over the 1970 value of the home of $50,000 – Mom’s tax basis. So, the daughter owes tax on the capital gains of $75,000 ($125,000 – $50,000 = 75,000). Daughter did not plan for that – normally. Bad result.
Solution. A better result is to either go through the Probate process with a Will, or to title the home into the homeowner’s revocable living trust. In both cases capital gains taxes are completed and legally avoided, because the beneficiaries legally get a “step up” in tax basis as of the date of death of the other joint owner – so that no taxes are due at all when the property is sold at present date fair market value.
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