A person called into a radio talk program with a situation that was troubling to the caller and disturbing based on the potential tax liability that may have been avoided.
The caller’s elderly father had deeded his home to his daughter a few years earlier because in his mind, his daughter was going to get the home eventually and this would be one less thing to be taken care of after his death. The daughter didn’t really care because the father was going to continue to live in the home and take care of it so that it would be no expense to her.
Obviously, unknown to either the father or the daughter, transferring the title of a home from one person to another could have significant tax implications. In this case, when the father “gave” the home to his daughter, he also gave her the basis in the home which is basically what he paid for it. If she sells the home in the future, the gain will be the difference in the net sales price and her father’s basis which could be considerably higher than had she inherited it.
If the home was purchased for $75,000 and worth $250,000 at the time of transfer, there is a possible gain of $175,000. However, when a person inherits property, the basis is "stepped-up" to fair market value at the time of the decedent's death. If the adult child had inherited the property, at the time of the parent's death, their new basis would be $250,000 or the fair market value at the time of death and the possible gain would be zero.
In most cases, there are less tax consequences with inheritance than with a gift. There are other factors that may come into play but being aware that there is a difference between a gift and inheritance is certainly an important warning flag that would indicate that expert tax advice should be sought before any steps are taken.