How to Ensure That Your Home Is Passed on to Your Children

How to Ensure That Your Home Is Passed on to Your Children

Whether your home is a legacy left from a previous ancestor or one you just bought and want to hand down to your children, the house is a special place and one you want to keep in the family. You could leave it to your child or children in your will, but are there other ways to be sure the house goes to your children and isn’t sold or gobbled up by estate or property taxes?

There are, but you need to start planning for it now. It’s never pleasant to think ahead to your eventual death, but you need to think ahead if you want to be sure your kids get your house when you’re no longer here to tell the court what you want. If you have immediate questions, go ahead and reach out to us today. We’re here to help.

home passed to kids

Gifts, Revocable Trusts, and Life Estates

Property law is filled with archaic, medieval terms like “fee simple,” “life estates,” and “reversion.” Back then, the terms had to do with who owned the land and who could live on it. Today, we use them to define who has title to property now and in the future.

When planning your estate, one thing you need to decide is whether you intend to continue living in the house or whether you plan to move out at some point. This will let you and your attorney, if you decide to consult one, make the best decisions about how to transfer your property.

  • Gift. The easiest way to ensure your home is transferred to your children is to give it to them as a gift. Iowa has no gift tax, but there is a federal gift tax on property that must be paid by the recipient. Gifting lets you continue to live in the property until you choose to leave, at which point the gift becomes the property of whoever you gave it to. This tax, the capital gains tax, is on the appreciated value of the property, if any, and it can be expensive.
  • Tenants with right of survivorship. You are allowed to take title to property as “joint tenants with right of survivorship.” Your attorney can explain this phrase in more detail, but it means that if you enter into this type of title with your kids, you and your children all own the property equally. When you die, the property immediately passes to them without the need for a will or trust. There are significant downsides to this method, the greatest of which is the lack of division of property. Still, it avoids probate, and if you want to ensure the property goes to your children without delay, this will ensure it.
  • Living or revocable trust. The most complex but safest route is to consult an estate planning attorney and draw up a living trust. As with titling the property, a trust bypasses probate by taking effect immediately upon your death or incapacity. Unlike a will, trusts need not be probated since the trustee is tasked with immediately distributing property, including all real property. In a trust, you can specifically detail which property is to go to which individuals. Your children can take title immediately, although they will have to have the property titled in their names. You can also leave property to minor children since a trustee can be designated to hold the property on their behalf until they reach a suitable age.

big family

Estate Planning

Even if you decide to handle your estate plans yourself, it is best to discuss them with an estate planning attorney. Your attorney can explain your options and go over the pros and cons of each alternative. It is also a good idea to have an attorney review your living trust before you sign it, to be sure that everything is included and properly listed. Some types of property transfer and powers of attorney require legal language to be binding on the agent. It’s a good idea to have someone who understands this language make sure you did the right things, so go ahead and contact us today.

Contact a Cedar Rapids Estate Planning Lawyer for Help Today

If you are considering estate planning and have a home you want to protect, or you have any questions about your will or trust, contact the Cedar Rapids estate planning lawyers of Arenson Law Group, PC at (319) 363-8199 and talk to one of our attorneys. We can help you review your options and make the best decisions for the disposition of your property and the protection of your loved ones.

How To Approach Power of Attorney Abuse

How To Approach Power of Attorney Abuse

When the Iowa legislature passed the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA), the purpose was to create a framework that the average person could understand when drafting a power of attorney. This allowed people to avoid the need for lengthy court conservatorships and make their financial and medical powers of attorney on their own.

Another purpose of the Act was to identify, prevent, and provide quick remedies for any abuse of a power of attorney. Power of attorney abuse extends beyond the life of the principal in the relationship and into probate. If the agent is found to have abused their authority in a way that impacts the estate, the heirs have legal recourse against the agent.

  • An agent may be terminated immediately if they are named in an abuse report regarding the principal’s financial resources
  • An agent may be terminated immediately if they are convicted of abuse related to the principal’s financial resources
  • Any interested person may petition the court for an agent conduct review if they suspect the power of attorney is being abused.
  • After probate, heirs may file tortious interference claims against an agent for abuses that occurred during the life of the principal.

Abuse and misuse of power of attorney over financial affairs are taken very seriously by the courts, and there are several legal claims that can be filed against such an individual. Arenson Law Group, PC has the experience to help resolve your case, contact us today to learn how we can help.

power of attorney

Undue Influence

One of the most common claims during an estate dispute is that of undue influence. Undue influence is defined in Iowa as “pre-death manipulation, persuasion, or control of a testator’s intent to convey assets” for the influencer’s personal gain.

Unscrupulous agents may act in several ways to gain influence over the principal. One common tactic is taking control of assets under the guise of helping care for the individual and then being named as an agent to facilitate their use of assets.

To prove undue influence in court, a plaintiff must show that the victim was vulnerable, the agent acted with apparent authority, the agent intended for the outcome, and that the agent received an “inequitable gift.” In a probate case, this might mean the testator left their house to the agent rather than the family.

Undue influence may also be demonstrated by the presence of other tortious acts. If you have questions that need immediate answers, contact us now.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A power of attorney creates a fiduciary relationship between the principal and the person chosen as the agent. In most cases, the principal is unable for some reason to handle their own finances, and the agent is entrusted with managing them. If the agent has used their position for their own profit or fails to provide an accounting to heirs after probate, they have breached their duty.

Theft by Conversion

Conversion is a legal term for taking the property of another and using it as your own. In a power of attorney case, conversion can include bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and anything of value.


Fraud usually consists of financial misappropriation or deception. When a fiduciary misrepresents their access to funds, lies about the amount of funds available, or overstates the reason for their use of funds, they are committing fraud.

How to Combat Power of Attorney Abuse

Heirs and beneficiaries can help prevent power of attorney abuse by taking an active role in the principal’s life. Most power of attorney abuses occur when the principal is older or isolated from their family. If a family member has mentioned granting a power of attorney to another person, here are some things you should do to protect your family and assets.

  • Choose the agent carefully. Don’t always go with a close friend or relative. It might be better to have a disinterested stranger or a professional fiduciary. Take your time and review your choices thoroughly before deciding. Don’t be embarrassed to do a background check.
  • Notify all financial agencies. Whether this is for yourself or a dependent adult, contact your financial agencies and let them know who the agent is and what their specific duties as power of attorney are. Ask to be notified if the agent strays outside their assigned role. Have accounts flagged for sudden large transfers or withdrawals.
  • Ask for an estate accounting. Many people have lost valuable family heirlooms and memorabilia to untrustworthy fiduciaries. Money is fungible, but property is not. If you or your relative have items you don’t want to lose, create a list, and make the agent liable if anything goes missing.

lawyers discussing contract

How an Attorney Can Help

Most importantly, contact an attorney at once if you suspect any breach of fiduciary duty or other abuse. Don’t confront the agent and then expect anything to change. A judge has the authority to remove an agent upon suspicion of power of attorney abuse. Don’t wait until things have progressed.

Although an agent can be sued after probate has closed, you cannot always recover stolen property or the full amount of the loss. If you believe your family member is being financially abused by their power of attorney, or there was undue influence in the writing or execution of the will, contact the Cedar Rapids estate planning lawyers of Arenson Law Group, PC at (319) 363-8199.

What You Should Know About Your Consultation With a Divorce Attorney

What You Should Know About Your Consultation With a Divorce Attorney

The decision to get a divorce is not an easy one. In the middle of your emotional upheaval, you must choose a divorce attorney who can help you through the process. You’ll want to be prepared for your first consultation to make the most of your time.

It’s natural to feel stressed, sad, and unsure at the first appointment. Sometimes, you might even feel a little bit of relief. But one way or the other, the appointment is bound to be emotionally draining. One way of mitigating stress is to understand what you can expect during the first consultation.

Your attorney will have questions for you, which can vary from case to case. You will also likely have questions for your attorney. There are documents that are helpful for you to bring with you during the first meeting.

These are some of the questions the Cedar Rapids divorce attorneys of Arenson Law Group, PC typically ask and some of the paperwork our clients typically bring with them. If you have immediate questions that need to be answered, don’t hesitate to reach out to Arenson Law Group, PC today. We’re here to help.

divorce agreement

It’s Time to Ask Questions

Your first meeting with your attorney is the time to get to know them and determine whether you feel comfortable with their representation. One of the key questions to ask is how you’ll communicate throughout the case. Being able to communicate regularly is essential to a successful outcome. Communication preferences can include phone calls, videoconferencing, emails, or in-person meetings.

It’s also important to understand the fee structure. This helps you estimate how much the divorce may cost. No attorney can make a guarantee about how long the case will last as there are several factors to take into consideration. These include alimony, child custody and support, and your ex-spouse’s willingness to negotiate quickly. Your attorney will also have a list of questions for you.

There are countless reasons why couples split up. Your attorney is going to want to know the reason you’re looking for divorce because it can help during negotiations with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. They will also want to know your current living arrangements. In some cases, a divorcing couple will choose to share the house until the divorce has been finalized.

The attorney needs to know if minor children or other family members are living with you as this will impact divorce proceedings. Are these children from your current marriage or from a previous marriage? Child custody is often the most critical and contentious issue in a divorce proceeding.

Your attorney will ask what your “must-haves” are, or the most important things that you must get out of the divorce. Often, this includes financial assets, such as real estate, savings, and retirement funds. Finally, your attorney will want to know if there were abuse or addiction challenges in the marriage. Should you have further questions, contact us today!

What Should You Bring?

There are several documents you’ll want to bring with you, so your first consultation is as productive as possible. If the thought of gathering these documents causes you stress, don’t worry. You’ll still benefit from consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer, even if you can’t find all the documents.

Marriage documents: To proceed with a divorce, your attorney will need to know you were legally married, when, and where. Your marriage certificate can help establish this information.

Documents for any marital assets: Marriage is a contractual agreement, and a divorce proceeding breaks that contract. Much of the process will deal with your finances, which includes splitting property and finances. If you had a prenuptial agreement, bring that with you as well. Be sure to identify what property you acquired before the marriage that is solely yours and bring documented proof of that ownership if you have it.

Salary information: One spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support or child support, depending on income levels and child custody. You can provide proof of income using tax returns, employment records, or pay stubs.

Documentation of debt: Just as important as proving your assets, your lawyer will also need to know how much debt you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in. This provides a complete financial picture and helps determine how the debt and assets will be split, as well as any alimony and child support that must be paid.

divorce is hard on everyone

Contact Arenson Law Group, PC Today for Help With Your Divorce

If you are going to file for divorce, or your spouse has filed for divorce, you need the support of an experienced divorce attorney. The outcome of your divorce will have consequences for many years to come. It’s crucial that your interests and rights are protected during this process.

The skilled and compassionate divorce attorneys of Arenson Law Group, PC understand the emotional upheaval that accompanies divorce proceedings. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and can help with many of the issues that arise during a divorce, such as grandparent visitation, premarital agreements, restraining orders, and property division.

Call our office today at (319) 363-8199, or reach out to us online to schedule your initial consultation. You’ll meet your legal team, who will start developing a strategy to help ensure your needs are met.

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