How Do You Protect A House If Your Spouse Gets Ill And Dies?

It is heartbreaking to watch your spouse suffer and fade away due to an illness, and during this painful time, you want to focus all your energy on making the most of the days you have left together.

You don’t want to be worried about losing your home. However, if you don’t plan ahead, you just might lose the house as well as your life partner. It is important to take steps to protect yourself now, before it’s too late.

PayneLess Law helps married couples devise the most efficient plans to protect themselves and their loved ones from the uncertain emergencies of the future as well as the transitions in life that eventually happen to all of us. Here are some factors to consider for spouses who own a home.

The Law Does Not Automatically Transfer Ownership of a House to One Spouse When the Other Spouse Passes Away

Did you know that even spouses who are not divorcing need to consider whether property is community property or separate property? Community property consists of property acquired during a marriage, while separate property is property one spouse owned before they got married. If a spouse inherits property in their name only, that property is also separate property, even if it was received while that spouse was married. The distinction between separate property and community property can be extremely important when you pass away.

If you die without a will or other estate plans in place, then the Arizona laws of intestate succession determine who will receive your property. These laws often distinguish between community and separate property. Your share of community property might go to someone other than your spouse, even though they own the other half. For instance, if you have children from another relationship and you die without a will, Section 14-2102 of the Arizona Revised Statutes specifies that your half of the community marital property will go to your children rather than to your spouse.

The Wording on the Deed is Critical

One way to ensure that one spouse receives full ownership of the house when the other passes away is to see that the names of both spouses are on the deed to the property, and that the deed includes appropriate legal language indicating that ownership comes with a right of survivorship. With jointly owned property with a right of survivorship, when one owner passes away, their interest in the property automatically passes to the other owner(s). If jointly owned property does not include a right of survivorship, then when one owner dies, their share of the property passes to their heirs or the beneficiaries of their will.

In some cases, it makes sense to establish a life estate deed with one partner owning an interest during their lifetime and the other spouse holding the remainder interest which they receive when the other spouse passes away.

Protection from Liability for Medical Bills

Because Arizona is a community property state, debts incurred during the marriage are generally the responsibility of both spouses, even if they relate to services received by only one spouse. That means that if a spouse suffers from a costly illness and passes away, the other spouse could be liable for extensive medical bills.

With proper planning, it may be possible to shield assets from debt so that a spouse will have resources to continue with home ownership despite medical debt that must be paid from the other spouse’s estate.

Planning is the Key to Protecting the Home

While there are several different strategies that you can use to protect your home in case of the illness or death of a spouse, the one feature they share in common is the need to plan. If you just hope for the best, you are liable to end up with the worst.

An estate planning attorney can help you ensure that your home is titled correctly to provide maximum protection based on your specific situation. Your attorney can also develop asset protection strategies designed to meet your needs and take advantage of the best available opportunities.

Find Out How PayneLess Law Can Protect Your Home

Your home is your refuge now and to make sure that it can be in the future, it is important to take the right steps to protect it. At PayneLess Law, we help people in all situations build the right plans to protect assets for their own use and for loved ones in the future. Schedule a consultation with us by calling 480-420-7199 to learn how to plan for asset protection in Arizona today.

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