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Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)

Daughter and mother sign a QPRT
Daughter and mother sign a QPRT

When creating an estate plan, one important question to consider is how to handle the transfer of personal property, including your home. A Qualified Personal Residence Trust, or QPRT, is something you may decide to create to minimize gift and estate taxes associated for your heirs. This type of trust essentially allows you to take your personal residence out of the estate tax equation when transferring assets to your named beneficiaries. While not everyone needs a QPRT, it’s helpful to understand how they work and the pros and cons of using one in estate planning. If you think a QPRT might be right for you, consider linking up with a trusted financial advisor in your area for expert guidance.

Qualified Personal Residence Trust, Definition

A trust is a legal entity that holds property and other assets on behalf of a beneficiary. A QPRT is a specific type of irrevocable trust designed to hold a personal residence. An irrevocable trust means that the transfer of property ownership is permanent and can’t be undone.

This is also a type of grantor trust, which means that you as the grantor or trust creator can take advantage of gift tax exemptions for property placed in the trust. For a QPRT, that’s your personal residence. This can be either a primary or secondary home, such as a vacation home.

As the grantor, you can continue to live in the home for a period of time with a retained interest in the property. Once the QPRT term ends, ownership of the property is transferred to the trust’s beneficiaries.

How a QPRT Works

When you establish a Qualified Personal Residence Trust, you’re taking your personal residence out of your estate and transferring its ownership to the trust. While the trust is in place, you and your family can continue living in the home. You’d be responsible for maintaining the property’s upkeep, but you could still take advantage of homeowner tax breaks, including SALT deductions for property taxes and mortgage interest deductions for a primary mortgage or a home equity line that was used to make improvements to the property.

Any appreciation that happens after the transfer takes place is removed from your estate. Because you retain an interest in the residence, you can reduce the amount of the property’s value that’s subject to estate and gift taxes.

But there’s an important rule to keep in mind: you have to outlive the term of the trust. That’s different from most trust arrangements, in which the end goal is the transfer of assets after the grantor passes away. If you don’t outlive the trust term, the entire value of the residence held in the QPRT can be included in your estate for tax purposes.

Assuming you do outlive the trust term, you can continue living in the home but at this point, ownership must pass to your trust beneficiaries. You’d then have to rent the home at a price based on fair market value. So, for example, if you plan to leave your home to your children, you’d pay rent to them. The upside is that this can be an indirect way to pass on wealth to them.

Pros and Cons of Using a QPRT in Estate Planning

QPRT being signed
QPRT being signed

A Qualified Personal Residence Trust can be a useful tool for estate planning if you own a high-value property and you’re looking for ways to minimize taxation. But it does have some complexities that can make it less suitable for estate planning, depending on your personal situation. Here’s how the pros and cons balance out:

Pros:

  • It can be a useful way to create a financial legacy for your children or other beneficiaries if you want to pass on real property.

  • During the trust term, you can live in the home rent-free and take advantage of any available tax breaks.

  • Appreciation and the value of your primary home are removed from your taxable estate, allowing for more of your assets to be passed on to your beneficiaries.

  • You may be able to minimize or avoid gift taxes associated with the transfer of the residence.

  • If you continue to live in the home, rent payments made to your beneficiaries can offer an additional path for transferring wealth.

Cons:

  • A QPRT is irrevocable so that once the transfer of ownership is initiated, it can’t be revoked or changed.

  • If you die before the trust term ends, any anticipated gift or estate tax benefits are lost.

  • Having a mortgage outstanding on the home can complicate estate planning since mortgage payments can be counted against gift tax exemptions.

There are some other things to keep in mind about using a QPRT for estate planning as well. For one thing, since you’re still living in the home it’s up to you to make sure it’s maintained. And any income generated by the trust is taxable to you as the grantor.

It’s also worth noting that attempting to refinance a home that’s included in a QPRT can be challenging, if not impossible. Since you technically don’t own the home (the trust does) you couldn’t use the property as collateral. Likewise, trying to sell a home that’s held inside a QPRT can complicate the sale process.

Who Needs a Qualified Personal Residence Trust?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on your estate planning needs and goals. If you have a home that you want to pass on to your heirs while minimizing estate and gift taxes, a QPRT could help with achieving that goal.

But, there are a few things to consider before creating one. Specifically, it’s important to think about your overall health and how likely you are to outlive the trust term. If you pass away before the term ends, then the QPRT is essentially worthless from an estate planning perspective.

You should also consider your plans for staying in the home long-term after the trust term ends. If you have to pay rent to your beneficiaries at a fair market value rate then you’d need to be certain you could afford to make those payments. And you should also consider what might happen to the home if you can no longer live there because you require long-term care in a nursing home instead.

The Bottom Line

Housekeys being handed from one person to another
Housekeys being handed from one person to another

A QPRT can serve a distinct purpose in estate planning but they may not be appropriate for every situation. Because of how complex they are to establish and maintain, it may be helpful to talk with an estate planning attorney to decide if you need this type of trust. If it turns out you do, however, you may be able to create some significant gift and estate tax savings for the benefit of your heirs.

Tips for Investing

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about whether a QPRT is something you could benefit from. If you don’t have an advisor yet, SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help with finding one. You just have to answer a few simple questions online to get personalized recommendations for professional advisors in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.

  • A trust is just one component of a well-rounded estate plan. Drafting a will and considering whether you need life insurance are also part of the planning process. Creating a durable power of attorney and an advance health care directive may need to be added to your to-do list as well to ensure that your wishes are upheld with regard to your finances and medical care.

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