Estate Planning & Your Second Home

Purchasing a second home, whether for personal enjoyment or as an investment, is a significant financial milestone. It's important to consider the estate planning implications of this decision to ensure that your assets are protected. Here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward with this major purchase.

Purpose of the Home

Before purchasing a second home, it’s important to consider the purpose of the property. If your main goal is to make a financial investment in real estate, you’ll need to carefully consider market conditions and tax implications. On the other hand, if you’re primarily interested in using the home for personal enjoyment as a vacation property, you’ll want to focus on protecting the home in a different way. If you plan to rent out the property when you’re not using it, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you rent it out for two weeks or less per year, you may be able to deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes in a similar way to a primary residence. However, if you rent it out for more than two weeks per year, these benefits will no longer be available. It’s important to carefully plan and consider the tax consequences of renting the property, as well as the potential value of the rental income. Another factor to consider when renting out a second home is personal liability. In the event that a renter has an accident or injury on the property and chooses to bring a claim, you’ll want to ensure that your personal assets are protected. One way to do this is by titling the property wisely.

Who Should Own It?

There are several options to consider when determining how to hold the title to your second home. You can hold the title as an individual, hold it jointly with another person, or create a company or trust to hold the title. If you plan to rent out the property, creating a limited liability company or another entity to hold the title may be a good idea, as this can protect your personal assets and primary residence from claims brought by renters. For married couples who purchase a second home together, one option is to hold the title with “joint ownership with survivorship rights.” This means that when one spouse passes away, the property will not go through probate proceedings and will automatically pass to the surviving spouse. If you hold the title jointly with someone other than a spouse, it’s important to consider the potential estate planning and tax implications of this arrangement, including gift tax considerations and the potential to take advantage of federal or state estate tax exemptions.

Other Things to Consider

If you own a second home in a state other than your primary residence, it’s especially important to carefully consider how you structure the ownership of the property. In the event of your death, your heirs or probate representative may be required to complete a probate proceeding and pay estate tax in the second state. This is also a concern if you own property in a foreign country, as different countries have different laws regarding inheritance, trusts, and estate taxes. It’s important to work with a qualified attorney to ensure that your assets are protected in these situations. Even if you don’t own property abroad, there are still other factors to consider when setting up a second home, such as gift tax laws and local land use regulations. Seeking the guidance of a qualified attorney can help you navigate these complex issues and ensure that your assets are protected.