Real estate encompasses not only one’s primary residence but also other property such as a vacation home or a rental property. The ideal form of ownership varies depending on the type of real estate you own. Below, we take a look at the different types of real estate and offer advice about the best form of ownership for each.
Your primary residence receives special tax treatment (itemized deduction for mortgage interest). Joint Tenancy title allows automatic transfer of ownership to the surviving tenant upon the death of one tenant without court involvement, however, if all tenants die at the same time then the property may be subject to Probate. Transferring ownership of the primary residence to a joint revocable trust may be a wise option. Ownership by the trust also means that the real estate will not go through the lengthy, expensive, and public probate process but will instead be handled according to your wishes as specified in the trust document.
If asset protection is a major concern during your lifetime, certain types of irrevocable trusts are best suited for your needs but may require you to give up some control of the property.
The bankruptcy code may provide additional protections for a primary residence through a homestead exemption. In California, that protects up $75 – $175,000 in equity.
For some families, their vacation home has not only high monetary value but also significant emotional value. Ownership of a vacation home by a trust or limited liability company (LLC) can be advantageous because it addresses three goals: (i) ease of transfer to the next generation; (ii) centralized management; and (iii) asset protection.
With a trust or LLC, you are able to establish rules for how the property is to be used and maintained, as well as designate what is to happen to the vacation home once you pass away. This can be a great solution if you want to ensure that the vacation home stays in the family for generations with minimal family conflicts.
An additional benefit of having an LLC own your vacation home is that it provides limited liability from outside claims. If a judgment is entered against the LLC, the creditor is limited to the accounts or property owned by the LLC to satisfy the creditor’s claims and cannot look to your personal accounts or property or those of the other members. Also, if a judgment is entered against you or another member for a claim unrelated to the LLC, it will be harder for a creditor to force a sale of the vacation home. This can be incredibly helpful if you wish to pass the vacation home on to the next generation without worrying about the individual financial situation of each new member.
Because rental property is an income stream rather than a residence, asset protection should be a primary concern. As a landlord and owner of rental property, you face a higher probability of lawsuits arising in connection with the property because the occupants can change over time. Transferring ownership of the rental property to an LLC is a great option. If a renter gets injured on the property, sues the LLC that owns the property, and obtains a judgment that exceeds any property insurance you have, the renter can seek satisfaction of any claims only from the accounts and property owned by the LLC, not from your personal accounts and property or those of any other owners of the LLC.
Whether you are concerned about your primary residence, family cabin, vacation property, or rental property, we are here to assist you in protecting your valuable property. Given the various considerations for selecting a form of ownership, it is important to have the right advisors helping you along the way. Give us a call so we can discuss your current and future real estate ventures and the best way to protect them for generations to come.