A comprehensive estate plan should address all of your assets, including rental property. For most people, an estate plan must include three common categories:

  1. Your home
  2. Financial accounts (like your checking and savings account)
  3. Personal property.

Other types of assets – such as life insurance, retirement funds, and annuities – should also be considered as part of your estate plan. If you own rental property, however, your estate plan will be more complicated because there are some unique considerations.

Rental Property & Estate Plans

Estate PlanningIt is no surprise that one of the risks of being a landlord of a commercial or residential property is the threat of lawsuits. An injured guest or tenant, a claim under the landlord-tenant act, or a lease dispute can all end up in the courtroom. However, a well thought out rental property plan and estate plan can hedge against this risk.

Protecting Your Assets

A prudent landlord purchases adequate insurance coverage as the first line of defense. Sometimes, however, the insurance policy’s limit is not sufficient to cover damage awarded by a court. When this happens, the next place the prevailing party looks to for satisfaction of judgment is the property owner’s personal assets. This scenario leads us to the next layer of protection.

Using a Business Entity as Protection

Owning property through a business entity, like a limited liability company (LLC), can protect personal assets against seizure.  However, merely filing paperwork to create an LLC isn’t enough. You must treat the LLC as a true business entity. All reports, filings, bank accounts, and other formalities must be met at all times in order to benefit from the liability protection of an LLC. Additionally, you must consider who can manage your assets if you’re unable to do so, leading to our next consideration.

Who Is Managing Your Assets

Another factor to consider is the trustee who manages the living trust. A trustee bears the responsibility of managing the property owned by a trust for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. The exact duties of a trustee may vary depending on what assets the trust owns and the trust’s terms. While income from the rental property made you financially successful, many institutional trustees – or someone outside of your circle of family and friends – will often liquidate assets and invest the funds. This result may or may not be what you want to be doing with your assets. For this reason, using an LLC to organize your rental property holdings and have the trustee simply collect the net income from the overall operation can be a way to ensure your wealth remains in the rental property.

Tax Advantages Through 1031

A 1031 exchange is a vehicle to defer taxes from the sale of rental property. The rules to qualify are complex but can save enormous amounts of income tax, depending on your situation. Your trust, powers of attorney, and LLC allow your family to take advantage of this tax-saving law if you are unable to manage your own affairs.

Bottom Line

Rental Property and Estate PlanningYou’ve likely worked hard over the years to build and acquire your rental property, along with your other assets. Therefore you should make sure that your estate plan takes every one of your assets into account. Proper planning can give you and your family the most benefits and protection.

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