Illinois Law & Giving Assets to Children

When you give anyone a gift valued at more than $14,000 in any one year, you have to file a gift tax form. This is so that the government can keep track of gifts you make during your lifetime. You can give a total of $5,340,000 over your lifetime without incurring a gift tax.

Keep in mind that if you decide to give your children your home, while you may not have to pay gift taxes on the gift, if your children sell the house right away, they may be facing steep taxes. The reason is that when you give away your property, the tax basis (original cost) of the property for the giver becomes the tax basis for the recipient. For example, suppose you bought the house years ago for $150,000 and it is now worth $350,000. If your give your house to your children, the tax basis will be $150,000. If the children sell the house, they will have to pay capital gains taxes of the difference between $150,000 and the selling price. The only way for your children to avoid the taxes is for them to live in the house for at least two years before selling it. In that case, they can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a couple) of their capital gains from taxes.

Inherited property does not face the same taxes as gifted property. If the children were to inherit the property, the property’s tax basis would be “stepped up”, which means the basis would be the current value of the property. However, the home will remain in your estate, which may have estate tax consequences.

Beyond the tax consequences, gifting a house to children can affect your eligibility for Medicaid coverage of long-term care. There are other options for giving your house to your children, including putting it in a trust or selling it to them.

Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.

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