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Gain on sale of house when spouse dies
Old 03-25-2018, 07:32 AM   #1
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Gain on sale of house when spouse dies

Please correct my thinking on this, if I'm wrong.

Couple has been married for 30 years; bought the house they currently live in 20 years ago, and lived in it continuously for 20 years. Estimated gain on the sale of the house is $500,000.

Husband dies in October of Year X. If the widow can act quickly, and sell the house by December 31 of Year X, the gain on the sale will be a non (taxable) event. She will file as Married, Filing Jointly for Year X, and can thus exclude the entire $500,000 gain.

However, if she sells the house on January 1 of Year X+1, she will only be able to exclude $250,000 of the gain, since she will be filing as a Single person for Year X+1.

Is that basically correct? Thanks for your help.
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:41 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by sakowitzm View Post
Please correct my thinking on this, if I'm wrong.

Couple has been married for 30 years; bought the house they currently live in 20 years ago, and lived in it continuously for 20 years. Estimated gain on the sale of the house is $500,000.

Husband dies in October of Year X. If the widow can act quickly, and sell the house by December 31 of Year X, the gain on the sale will be a non (taxable) event. She will file as Married, Filing Jointly for Year X, and can thus exclude the entire $500,000 gain.

However, if she sells the house on January 1 of Year X+1, she will only be able to exclude $250,000 of the gain, since she will be filing as a Single person for Year X+1.



Is that basically correct? Thanks for your help.
Per this article in Washington Post, you have up to 2 years after spouses death for 500,000 exemption.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.ea1034870b11
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:42 AM   #3
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No, the widow would get a stepped up basis for all or half of the house, depending on whether community property or not and the step up in basis would further reduce the gain.

https://www.wife.org/widows-pay-capi...ath-spouse.htm

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As a recent widow, you have one more card to play to beat capital gains tax. In all likelihood, you and your husband owned your home jointly (both of your names were on the deed) or there was a built-in right-of-survivorship. What this means is that when your husband died, his half of the home went to you.

Something else happened during that transfer that most homeowners don’t realize. Your husband’s half of the home transferred to your ownership on a stepped-up basis. When he died, his portion of the house updated (or stepped up) to the current fair market value of the home. ...
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:45 AM   #4
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What about cost basis increase on the house when one spouse dies? Don’t forget about that! A new basis for the house will have been established due to inheriting half the house. So the gain should be half as high initially, not taking into account later gain of course. That’s assuming joint ownership.

Oh, I see pb4uski beat me to it.
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Old 03-25-2018, 07:54 AM   #5
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No, the widow would get a stepped up basis for all or half of the house, depending on whether community property or not and the step up in basis would further reduce the gain.

https://www.wife.org/widows-pay-capi...ath-spouse.htm
Correct per the article I linked:

On your husband’s share of the home, you inherited the home at a value of $250,000 and are now selling that share for $250,000. That means that you’d pay no tax on the sale of his half when you sell and you wouldn’t pay any tax on your half since the profit on your half is under the $250,000 exclusion you’re allowed. If this is how the numbers were to play out, you wouldn’t have any federal income taxes to pay on the sale of the home.
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:04 AM   #6
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How does a widow or widower document the change? Are there tables you can use after the fact to retroactively determine the value at the time of death?
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:10 AM   #7
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No, the widow would get a stepped up basis for all or half of the house, depending on whether community property or not and the step up in basis would further reduce the gain.
+1 - I had to dig into this recently and this was my conclusion also.

In non-community property states, the deceased owner receives a stepped up basis to FMV on date of death. The remaining owner(s) retain their original basis.

In community property states it is even more advantageous.

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Old 03-25-2018, 11:20 AM   #8
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How does a widow or widower document the change? Are there tables you can use after the fact to retroactively determine the value at the time of death?
At time of death, the widow(er) should get a CMA or appraisal especially in fast appreciating areas. We did this when my mother passed and had to sell the house a couple of years later. We had a local realtor prepare a CMA. Father's appreciation was well above the $250K allowed and would have had a taxable event had we not had the documentation. I'm sure there are ways to look back at values at time of death, however, this would be more difficult.
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Old 03-25-2018, 12:22 PM   #9
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Thanks for the replies; very helpful.

So then... if the wife sells the four years later (thus outside of the two year period), her half of the gain would be $250,000 (and probably a little more, accounting for additional appreciation), but the husband's half would be considerably less than $250,000, since the cost basis is adjusted to market price at the time of his death.

Thus.... it would be likely that the overall gain for the widow might be something in the $260,000 - $280,000, and after the single person exclusion, something less than $50,000. A whole lot better than $250,000.

Thanks.
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Old 03-25-2018, 12:32 PM   #10
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If the couple lived in a community property state then there might be a 100% adjustment of basis rather than 50%.

See https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/38...eath-of-spouse

Otherwise, yes... her new basis would be her old basis plus $250,000 (1/2 of the $500,000 unrealized appreciation as of the date of death). Her subsequent gain would be the sales price less her adjusted basis.

Also, any gain that is taxable... the less than $50,000 in your post above, would be at 0% or 15% depending on her total taxable income.
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Old 03-25-2018, 01:44 PM   #11
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pb4uski -- I was going to ask about how the gain is treated, but didn't want to clutter up the thread at first.

So the gain is treated the same way as a long term capital gain on the sale of IBM stock?
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Old 03-25-2018, 01:50 PM   #12
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On the issue of community property there is, theoretically, a question if joint tenancy property is really "community property" or not but I think most CPAs would treat as CP and give full step-up at first death. If house were multi-millions and not titled in CP then I would advise getting a spousal property petition (in Cali) or whatever it's called in other CP states so there is a court order confirming it really is community property.
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Old 03-25-2018, 02:17 PM   #13
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^^^^^ good idea... the devil is in the details... but I would think that whether or not an asset was community property or not is really a legal question rather than a tax question.

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Originally Posted by sakowitzm View Post
pb4uski -- I was going to ask about how the gain is treated, but didn't want to clutter up the thread at first.

So the gain is treated the same way as a long term capital gain on the sale of IBM stock?
Yes.
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Old 03-25-2018, 06:43 PM   #14
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How does a widow or widower document the change? Are there tables you can use after the fact to retroactively determine the value at the time of death?
Ideally you have an appraisal or something to document the ptooerty value when the spouse dies.

My Dad inherited a house and farmland from my mom when she passed. I only recently learned that it hadn’t been appraised or a value set. I assumed it had, because the land had been resurveyed at the time. But apparently only the survey was done.

So if Dad decides to sell the land we have some work cut out for us to establish his basis fromover 20 years ago.
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Old 03-25-2018, 11:26 PM   #15
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An interesting topic, something I should put in my notes for future use by myself or DW.

Does any of this change if the house is titled in a revocable trust, where the husband and wife are trustees?
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Old 03-26-2018, 04:01 AM   #16
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We have our home in our trust. If one of us dies, nothing changes since the house isn't in our names, but the trust. So nothing changes if either of us precedes the other and wants to sell later.
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Old 03-26-2018, 04:34 AM   #17
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Another option for setting real estate values from prior years is to retain an appraiser who has a MAI (Member of Appraiser Institute) certification. The certification is the CPA for appraisers. Every property does not really need a MAI appraisal but more complex ones like producing farms, industrial and commercial properties would benefit.
For a simple residence, I would make a copy of county tax assessor valuation and "call it good" unless there was an audit.
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Gain on sale of house when spouse dies
Old 03-26-2018, 04:56 AM   #18
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Gain on sale of house when spouse dies

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Does any of this change if the house is titled in a revocable trust, where the husband and wife are trustees?
I think this depends on the wording of the trust. Mine specifically says that trust property held in both names (A and B, as trustees of the C Trust) is community property. The surviving spouse would get 100% step-up in basis.

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We have our home in our trust. If one of us dies, nothing changes since the house isn't in our names, but the trust. So nothing changes if either of us precedes the other and wants to sell later.
The house remains owned by the trust, but the surviving spouse should still have it valued to step up the tax basis. Any appreciated trust assets such as taxable brokerage accounts and collectibles should be valued to adjust the basis.
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Old 03-26-2018, 05:41 AM   #19
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The house remains owned by the trust, but the surviving spouse should still have it valued to step up the tax basis. Any appreciated trust assets such as taxable brokerage accounts and collectibles should be valued to adjust the basis.
Valued how? A full blown appraisal or would a market analysis from a real estate agent suffice? This wouldn't trigger a recalc for property taxes, would it? (California property under Prop13)

Unless the surviving spouse sold the house, it really wouldn't matter, would it, as long as they live there?

If the home was reverse mortgaged, say, how would that affect things?
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Old 03-26-2018, 07:47 AM   #20
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....The house remains owned by the trust, but the surviving spouse should still have it valued to step up the tax basis. Any appreciated trust assets such as taxable brokerage accounts and collectibles should be valued to adjust the basis.
That is my understanding as well... for tax purposes it is as if the beneficiaries of the trust owned the assets directly even though legal title is in the name of the trust.
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