What Should You Do With the Family Home?

  • 20 June 2017
  • Author: IEP Team
What Should You Do With the Family Home?

Home Options for Aging Parents

We who take care of aging parents know it well: the feeling of stress that comes with thinking of parents’ safety, finances, health and social isolation. However, grandparents’ and parents’ worries are usually about how they’ll manage to stay at home as long as possible. Even if there are legitimate reasons to move into a smaller home or assisted living facility, the transition can be a difficult one. Below are some tips for caretakers on helping aging parents downsize.

Talk Things Over

Before we start making changes and choices, it’s important to have an open, honest discussion. Be frank with your parents, and allow them to discuss their sorrows and fears about the transition, as well as its exciting possibilities. It’s important to do some research before having such a conversation, and an estate planning attorney in Idaho can be a great source of help and information. Check out potential senior living communities and assisted living facilities, because it’s easier to answer parents’ questions when we know the basics. In the end, parents need to feel as if they’re making the decision themselves—it’s the adult caregiver’s job to get them excited and emotionally prepared for change. When parents are on board and ready, they can take ownership of the situation and make informed decisions, which makes the transition easier.


It’s hard for most people to think about, but downsizing is an inevitable part of getting older. The family home is full of memories of children and grandchildren, as well as Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries and other happy and sad occasions. It’s hard for some people to let go of a lifetime of mementos, and it can be a physically daunting task as well. However, when the entire family pulls together to help, the process is easier. In the sections below are some ownership options for the family home after parents relocate or pass away.

Joint Ownership

If parents and adult children own a home as joint tenants with survivorship rights, the home will bypass probate when the parents pass on. This can be advantageous if an ailing parent needs Medicaid to pay for nursing or home care because it can help the family avoid the State’s reimbursement claim at the time of death. In some areas, the State’s claim can include property in which the recipient had a stake, but which bypassed probate. If a home is sold while owners are still alive, proceeds are divided evenly among them.

Tenancy in Common

If daughters, sons, and parents own a home under tenancy in common, the parents’ share will go to whoever is named in the will. This is often the fairest option as far as other family members are concerned, but it does not avoid estate tax and probate court. As in a joint ownership situation, if the home is sold while all owners are still living, the profits are divided equally among co-owners.

Life Estates

These are a type of joint ownership where the parents, as life tenants, have the right to live in the home during their lifetimes. Upon the tenant’s death, the home automatically passes to whoever they name, whether it’s a certain person or all the children together. Like a joint ownership situation, a life estate can help us avoid estate recovery and probate. When the home is sold, the proceeds are split between the parents and named beneficiaries, according to the parent’s age. Consult an estate planning attorney in Idaho for State-specific details.


Putting the family home into a trust is a very flexible approach because a trust can be made to say whatever the creator wishes it to say. Trusts can guarantee an aging parent the right to remain in the home, and they can compensate adult children for their caretaking services. They can also consider changing circumstances, such as when an adult child passes away before the parent. Similar to the other options, a trust helps families avoid estate tax concerns, probate, and estate recovery.

Reverse Mortgage

With a reverse mortgage, a senior homeowner takes a loan against the equity they’ve accrued over the years. The lender makes a payment in installments, in a lump sum, or as a credit line, and the loan doesn’t have to be paid back until the borrower passes away or has not lived in the home for a year. In some cases, adult children sign for a reverse mortgage with a parent who needs long-term care, as a way to pay for that care while keeping the home in the family. 

We hope these tips will help families as they walk aging parents through the transition phase. Moving into a smaller home or assisted living facility can be difficult, and for some, it may feel as if they’re giving up a lifetime of memories. However, with a support system in place, adult children can return the generosity and kindness of the parents who took care of them over a lifetime. Contact our team today for help with your situation, these issues are never one-size-fits-all, and we have the experience to help guide you through these transitions. 



Categories: Estate Planning
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