Inheriting a Home: What You Should Know

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When a loved one passes, you may find yourself the inheritor of their property. Whether you intend to keep the home or sell it, the process of handling someone else’s real estate can feel like a huge responsibility, especially on top of the other emotions you’re processing. 

Jason Heath, managing director and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) at Objective Financial Partners Inc., says more people are opting to keep their inherited home due to climbing real estate prices. Often their biggest question about inheritance centres around what to do with the property once it’s in their possession.

“I find a lot of times people inherit a home and [some] of the considerations [are] ‘Do I keep it? Do I rent it out? Do I sell it?’” said Heath. “I think because real estate prices, in a lot of parts of Canada, are going up so much, there are more people trying to keep and rent the house out rather than sell it.”

Are you or someone you know in this position? You’re in luck, Heath shares his knowledge about what you should know about home inheritance.

The first steps and deciding what to do next

In most cases when someone passes away, the person’s children are the ones inheriting the property and are the executors of the estate, explains Heath. At this time, the executors may need to settle the estate and go through the legal process that entails any required probate and tax filing with the government. Once that process is complete, the asset belongs to them, and the executors can choose what to do with the property from there. 

There are a few options when it comes to inherited real estate—you can sell the home, keep it as a personal use property like a cottage, or rent it out as a source of income. Heath says it’s important to consider the use of the property, and what that will mean for you in terms of expenses, maintenance, insurance, and taxes. 

“If you’re going to keep the property, how are you going to use it?” he asks. “If you’re going to keep it as a rental property, is it actually a good property for that purpose? Is it a bit of a hassle because it’s older and needs repairs and work done?”

Understand potential capital gains taxes and expenses

Generally, if you’re the heir of a home that was the principal residence of the person who died, there are no tax implications to think about, Heath explains. However, if the home was used for another purpose, such as a rental or recreational property, there may be federal taxes to pay.

Canada has no inheritance tax, but you may be required to pay capital gains tax, which would start accruing after the home is inherited, so long as it was not used as a primary residence. The capital gain is calculated based on the fair market value of the property when it was inherited and the growth in value when it’s sold.

Heath also notes there may be other costs involved with property inheritance, such as a provincial probate fee worth a small percentage of the estate’s value. If you plan on keeping the property as a vacation home or a source of rental income, you’ll also need to think about annual property taxes, insurance, utilities, condo fees, if applicable, and regular maintenance costs.

Planning ahead for property inheritance

If you’re thinking about giving someone property as an inheritance, or will become the beneficiary of property, pre-planning is never a bad idea. 

When one or more property heir is involved, such as siblings, Heath says it can get tricky when deciding if it should be sold or co-owned. In some cases, one sibling may want to keep the property, while the others want to sell it or be bought out. There may also be cases where inheritors don’t agree on the regular upkeep costs and contributions to the property. 

To avoid potential conflict, Heath says it may be beneficial to do some estate planning ahead of time. This can be done with a general lawyer or an estate lawyer who specializes in estate planning. As part of the pre-planning process, Heath advises in cases where a property may be subject to capital gains taxes, to keep records of the improvements and renovations done, not to mention what its original purchase value was. 

“[Without] those records, your executors or your children may just be guessing or may end up paying more capital gains tax than your estate needs to pay without good records,” said Heath.

If you’re considering the sale of an inherited property, search for an experienced REALTOR® for support and advice throughout every step of the process. 

The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment or financial advice.


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