The wisdom behind the truism that there’s no such thing as a free lunch can even apply in a context as virtuous as inheriting St. Louis homes. Parents bequeathing the family home—or generations passing down the ancestral vacation cottage—are intended to be acts of unalloyed generosity. But common to many commentaries on the subject are some common unintended consequences. For St. Louis homeowners who have ever weighed the idea of passing the family homestead onto their progeny, it’s a point worth exploring.
The most acrimonious outfalls surface when multiple heirs are involved. Since individuals fare differently as careers develop and life’s opportunities and challenges unfold, the obligations accompanying homeownership present difficulties for some heirs more than others. Given the fact that taxes, insurance, utility bills, and maintenance expenses are ongoing even for a property that is debt-free, the choice of which possible disposition (occupying, renting, or selling) may affect heirs very differently.
Overlaying the financial outfall is the likelihood that the latter two income-generating solutions are bound to raise sentimental issues when clearing the property for sale or new tenants. The emotional stress often causes heirs to avoid cleaning out an inherited property, sometimes, for years. Says Rhea Friedman, a CFP in Manhattan, “Not selling a house and not living in it makes for increased maintenance and insurance costs without much to show for them.”
The best solutions seem to result when everyone can summon “their best selves” to cooperate in formulating a precise agreement spelling out how ongoing expenses and obligations will be shared. Another variation is for the donors to engage St. Louis legal help to create a framework that addresses the specifics in ways designed to minimize discord.
The Washington Post once summed up the all-too-common problem simply. It can be resolved “by parents with proper advance planning.” That may be an oversimplification, but that kind of foresight in other St. Louis homeownership issues is always advantageous. Call me anytime—I’m always happy to contribute help and advice. 636.329.4100