Should you add your child to the title of your real property?
It seems as though there is a myth circulating among aging adults that it is wise or prudent to add a child’s name to the title of one’s real property. Where this myth generated, I have no idea. There is little to be gained by doing so, while the complications and problems it might impose are numerous. If you explain your objective for considering this option to an estate planning attorney, he or she will most definitely propose a way to accomplish the same objective that does not involve adding your child’s name to your title or gifting your house outright to your child during your life.
Are you worried about avoiding probate? Are you worried about protecting your house from Medicaid? Are you looking to leave the house to a particular child upon your death so as to provide him or her a place to live? It doesn’t matter. Adding your child to the title of your real property is not the best way to accomplish any of those objectives.
To list just a few examples of potential complications, if you add your child to the title of your real property, it then becomes subject to his or her creditors, bankruptcy or divorce. If you have lived in the property for a very long time and its value has appreciated over time, gifting a portion of it now will lose your child’s ability to gain a step-up in basis as to the value of the real property at your death. Further, gifting your home to your child outright also does not assist in any application for Medicaid, but actually may cause you to be disqualified.
Ask Kit Kat – Prescient Oscar
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about Oscar, the cat, who can sense when the end of life is near?
Kit Kat: Well, this is an interesting story. Oscar, a seemingly ordinary, domestic shorthair cat, has been a resident in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island since 2005. He is mostly white, with some tabby markings on his head, back, and tail—a handsome fellow! He was brought in to serve as a therapy cat in the dementia unit. At the start, he was extremely shy, and would hide in a closet or wherever. Then, gradually, he started to come out when he sensed that someone was near the end of life. He would get in bed with the person, and, essentially, hold vigil until they had passed from life. Staff eventually caught on to what was happening when he accurately “predicted” 20-30 deaths in a row.
Oscar is now famous, thanks to a book written by Dr. David Dosa, a health researcher at Brown University and geriatrician who works part-time at Steere House. Dr. Dosa is not sure how Oscar knows when it’s the final hours for a person, but he speculates, “I think that ultimately your guess is good as mine. It (could be) likely that he’s responding to some smell when cells start to break down.” However Oscar has figured out life’s end for people is unimportant. What is important is that he models how we humans can respond at the end of a life. Comfort and just being there may seem like small things, but to the dying person, it is extremely soothing and uplifting. If you would like to learn more about Oscar, read Dr.Dosa’s book entitled Making the Rounds with Oscar. (https://www.crosssroadshospice.com/healthcare-professionals-resources/palliative-care-blog/2016/april/11/meet-oscar-the-cat-that-predicts-death-and-provides-comfort)
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