Can Child Buy Parents’ Home and Move In With Them?

 In Long-Term Care Planning

Question:

I would like to know if a child was interested in purchasing her parents’ home which are alive and move into the home with them could they do that without any problems?

Response:

Legally, that would be fine. Anyone can buy any property and choose who will live there. Practically, however, it raises a number of issues, which could become problems if not addressed. These include the following:

  1. Is it contemplated that the child will pay full market price for the house or something less? If less, will this be fair to the parents and, especially, to other siblings, if any?
  2. What is the agreement on paying maintenance expenses on the house and living expenses, such as food, utilities and cable?
  3. Will the parents pay rent?
  4. If the living arrangement doesn’t work out for any reason, who has to move out?
  5. What happens if the parents start needing care to stay at home? Will the child living with them provide the care or coordinate paid care providers? Or will the parents have to move into assisted living or a nursing home?

It’s important to ask and answer these questions ahead of time and to write down the answers for three reasons. First, the act of putting an agreement and expectations into writing makes the participants decide on the answers. Second, the act of putting thoughts down on paper often raises new issues that need to be discussed. And, third, people’s memories change over time, so it’s important to be able to refer back to the written agreement.

Finally, if I were advising the parents, I would counsel them against selling or giving away their entire ownership in the property. It’s their home that they presumably worked hard to purchase and maintain over many years. Ownership gives them control and dignity which can be very important as they grow older.

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