18 Downsides to Leaving Your House to Your Kids

While leaving your house to your children in your will might seem like a generous and straightforward decision, it can come with a surprising number of complications, particularly if you have more than one child. Here are 18 potential downsides to consider before you sign over the deed to your offspring, as it may negatively impact you all.

Strained Family Relationships

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If you have more than one child, inheriting a single property can prompt all kinds of familial strife. Forbes warns that it is often impossible to peacefully co-own a property with your siblings, whether it’s a rental, vacation home, or permanent residence for you all. Even if you all agree on keeping it for the same purpose, co-managing a property can lead to disagreements.

Unintended Financial Burden

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Inheriting a house doesn’t just mean inheriting a valuable asset; it also means inheriting the responsibility for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. These can be significant and even insurmountable in some cases. Always get a precise estimate on the ‘cost’ of your home as an inheritance for your children beforehand, including legal fees and any applicable taxes.

Loss of Control

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Suppose you choose to transfer ownership of your home before you pass away. In that case, you will relinquish a significant amount of control over your child or children. While you may love and trust them, there’s no guarantee that they won’t make executive decisions about your living arrangements or home improvements, especially if you require nursing care into old age.

Inflexibility for Your Heirs

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You and your children’s circumstances can change unexpectedly, meaning that your property may not be an ideal asset for them at a later date. Maybe your children move across the country for their dream job or start families, requiring a house of a different size or type. Owning a house they inherited could limit their ability to relocate or downsize as needed.

Unrealistic Expectations

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Leaving your house to your children before your death might create the unspoken expectation that they’ll allow you to live there rent-free for the rest of your life. Kavesh Law says this can lead to resentment on both sides if they have different plans for the property or if cohabitation becomes difficult. Minor family disagreements can unexpectedly escalate into major conflicts.

Unwanted Tenants

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If the house remains unoccupied while your children decide what to do with it, it could become a target for squatters or unwanted tenants. With no homeowner in residence, these individuals can cause expensive property damage and a stressful, lengthy eviction process. This can be an unforeseeable nightmare scenario for your heirs, creating a financial and logistical burden.

Selling a Jointly Owned Property

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Most parents with multiple offspring will leave their home to them all, often as an equal share. However, even if they all agree to sell, every sibling has to agree on the listing price, the timing, the realtor (if you choose to use one), and the right buyer. This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, especially when the siblings have differing needs and ideas about selling.

Unforeseen Maintenance Costs

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Even a well-maintained house can develop unforeseen problems like a failing roof, a cracked foundation, or a major appliance breakdown. Such essential repairs can be expensive, and your children may not be financially able to handle them, especially if they anticipated a sudden windfall from inheriting the property. This can deplete their savings and create financial strain.

Debt Risk

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Experian warns that inheriting a property means becoming responsible for any mortgage, liens, or other outstanding debts secured on the home. These will have to be paid in full before your child can freely sell the house. If your property has not been maintained or has a second mortgage, it may even represent negative equity—not something anyone wants to inherit!

Management Headaches

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If your children choose to rent out the property, they’ll become accidental landlords, responsible for finding tenants, collecting rent on time, dealing with repairs and maintenance requests (which can be disruptive and inconvenient for them), and potentially evicting problematic tenants. This might not fit in with their lifestyle or goals, especially if they live far from home.

Emotional Attachment

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If the home you’re bequeathing is your children’s family home, consider the barrier that their happy memories and sentimentality may pose to making smart financial decisions or profiting from the property. This can be especially problematic if one sibling cannot face selling the house while another desperately needs the money for other things. 

Spousal Complications

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If your children are adults, they may be married or partnered, and their spouse may have legal rights to the inherited property. This can add complexity to the situation, especially if you don’t like the partner or predict there will be a divorce in the future. Depending on state laws and prenuptial agreements, a spouse could claim a share of the house’s value, even if they’re not on the deed.

Unintended Pressure

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Leaving the house to your children might make them feel obligated to keep it, even if it’s not the most practical or financially sound decision for them. They may worry about disappointing you or causing family conflict if they choose to sell. Teenagers or young adults (in particular) may not want the responsibility of being a homeowner or be mature enough to handle the role.

Challenges of Dividing Equity

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If you have multiple children and want to leave them unequal portions of your estate, dividing the equity in a house can be tricky and prompt legal challenges. Keystone Law asserts that this can cause financial strain (if one sibling needs to buy the other out) and resentment over unequal shares. Finding a fair and agreeable solution can be stressful and challenging for everyone.

Market Fluctuations

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The housing market can be volatile. If you leave your house to your children during a downturn, they may be stuck waiting for the market to recover before they can sell it for a fair price. This can delay their access to their inheritance and create financial difficulties, especially if they are counting on the proceeds from the sale to pay off other debts or finance important goals.

Missing Out on Alternative Investments

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Inheriting a house ties up a significant amount of wealth in a single asset. Your children might be better off financially if you sold the house and invested the proceeds in other financial products, like stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. This could offer them the potential for higher returns and greater liquidity, allowing them to access their inheritance more quickly and easily.

Ignoring Alternative Bequests

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There might be other ways to benefit your children without leaving them your property outright. You could set up a trust that provides them with financial assistance for specific purposes, like education or a down payment on their own home. You could also leave them sentimental possessions or family heirlooms that they will cherish without the burden of property ownership.

Tax Forces Sale

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Depending on your location and the value of your property, your children may face inheritance taxes when they inherit your house. This could leave them with a hefty tax bill on top of the ongoing costs of maintaining the property. In some cases, the tax burden could be so high that they’re forced to sell the house to cover the cost, potentially negating your original intention!

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