A retained life estate is an irrevocable arrangement between you and the American Red Cross. You deed your home to us in exchange for an agreement that gives you the right to live in your home for as long as you choose, even for the rest of your life. When your retained life estate arrangement ends, your home becomes our property to use or sell. Typically, we will sell your home and use the proceeds.
A retained life estate is an irrevocable arrangement. Once you deed your home to the American Red Cross, you cannot change your mind and get your ownership back. This requirement assures that the value of your home will go to support the Red Cross.
Give your home, second home, or farm
Most donors create retained life estate arrangements using their home. It is also possible to create a retained life estate with a second home or any other structure that functions as your residence, such as a boat. You may also create a retained life estate with a farm, including raw farm land.
You will be responsible for all regular expenses on your property while you live in it. These expenses include routine maintenance, property taxes, utility bills, and insurance.
You will receive an income tax charitable deduction in the year of your gift. The amount of the deduction will depend on the value of your home and how long your plan will last. If you itemize instead of taking the standard deduction you could save significant income taxes. If you cannot use your entire deduction in the year of your gift, you may carry forward all unused deduction for up to five additional years if you are eligible to itemize in each of those years.
By removing your home from your estate, you may also reduce estate taxes and probate costs when your estate is settled if your estate exceeds the then applicable estate tax credit.
How long can my plan last?
You most likely will want to retain the right to live in your home for the rest of your life, or for the lives of you and your spouse. Other possible terms include more than two lives, a specific number of years, or a combination of lives and years.
Ending your plan early
If you decide you no longer want to live in your home for any reason, you can end your retained life estate early either by giving your remaining interest to the American Red Cross or by selling your property in cooperation with us.
Giving your home to our organization requires some extra steps of which you should be aware. These steps include the following:
- You will need to establish the value of your property by obtaining a qualified appraisal.
- We will need to examine your property and conduct our own analysis of its value. For example, we will want to know if there are any debts, taxes, or liens owed on your property.
- Once we accept your gift of real estate, we could become responsible for cleaning up any environmental problems your property may have. This sort of cleanup could be very expensive. Therefore, before we accept any gift of real estate, we routinely conduct a review to make sure the property has no environmental issues.
Mark and Lydia Henderson, ages 78 and 77, still live in the house in which they raised their three children. Mark and Lydia are in good health and have no plans to move. Their house has appreciated greatly over the years and is now worth about $600,000. Their children are grown with homes of their own and have no interest in keeping the house in the family.
Mark and Lydia would like to make a large gift to the American Red Cross, but they don’t feel comfortable giving a significant portion of their investment assets away. They are excited to learn that they can give their house instead while continuing to live in it for as long as they wish. Their lifestyle won’t change at all as a result of their arrangement. They also are attracted by the income tax charitable deduction of about $288,977* that they can use immediately to reduce their income taxes if they itemize their income tax deductions.
- Mark and Lydia can continue to live in their home for the rest of their lives.
- They receive an immediate income tax charitable deduction of about $288,977*.
- They may deduct up to 30% of their adjusted gross income in the year of the gift. If they cannot use their entire deduction in the year of their gift, they may carry forward the balance for up to five additional years.
- They will provide major support to the Red Cross, currently worth $600,000.
- Their home is no longer in their estate, potentially saving estate taxes.
*Mark and Lydia’s income tax charitable deduction may vary depending on the timing of their gift. Their ability to benefit from an income tax charitable deduction will depend on their ability to itemize their income tax charitable deductions.