Estate planning can be tricky to navigate. But it can get even more difficult when someone tries to change the plan after the beneficiaries have already received their share.
Nevertheless, Jeff from Toledo, Ohio is determined to retrieve a $400,000 gift his late wife left their two adult children. “I feel like it’s teaching them the wrong message and they’re getting a windfall at a very young age,” he said in a recent episode of The Ramsey Show.
However, Dave Ramsey thinks it’s too late to reconsider since the deed has already been signed. “I think they got the money, dude,” he told Jeff. “I think you screwed up.”
Here’s why Ramsey thinks pursuing the monetary gift could ultimately ruin Jeff’s relationship with his kids.
Leaving a legacy
Jeff revealed that his wife, who battled ovarian cancer, was keen to “leave a legacy” for their two children. He reluctantly agreed at the time. “It was very difficult and I wasn’t really in my right mind and I signed it,” he said.
When she passed away nearly two years ago, she left their 18-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son with a combined 50% stake (25% each) in the property.
Jeff estimated the house is worth roughly $800,000 and wants to sell it to finance his upcoming wedding to someone else. But he doesn’t want to give his kids the $400,000 they would be owed after a sale.
Based on his description to Ramsey, it sounds like Jeff and his wife gave their children joint tenancy or partial ownership of the house.
There’s no current data on how common these types of arrangements are among American families, but law firms tend to warn against joint tenancies, citing the various complications of adding children to property titles.
This method effectively makes adult kids co-owners of the house, with joint management rights and debt obligations for the property.
Such arrangements could leave room for disputes, as Jeff could attest. He also said his kids don’t want to transfer their ownership back to him, so a mutual agreement is unlikely.
Ramsey believes pursuing this further could put Jeff in a “relationship hole.”
Read more: Here’s how much the average 60-year-old American holds in retirement savings — how does your nest egg compare?
Ramsey said the fact that Jeff’s kids have already resisted a mutual agreement is a clear sign that he needs to let it go. “You added color to this equation when you said [your kids didn’t agree with you],” he told him. “Now you have two kids that are expecting this and don’t want to sign the quitclaim… you are going to step in a relationship hole here.”
The right move from the beginning, according to Ramsey, was to resist his wife’s request to put their heirs on the title in the first place, but it’s too late to fix that now. Jeff’s lawyer also confirmed that there’s not much he can do on his client’s behalf.
At this point, pursuing it further has the potential to irrevocably strain the relationship. “Do you want your kids thinking that you’re greedy?” co-host John Delony asked. “Put yourself in your kids’ shoes. You told them this and this was their mother’s dying wish. And now you’re changing your mind.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter… of principle, that’s not the point,” Ramsey added. “The point is more the relational thing that’s going to get violated here and so I think they got the money, dude.”
Wrangling over estates can often lead to family disputes and broken relationships. A study from LegalShield found that 58% of Americans have experienced conflict due to lack of estate planning, while 36% say there are surprises for their beneficiaries in their wills.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.