The donor’s dilemma

mother thinking of handing over house

If you are thinking about transferring your house to your children during your lifetime, you should first consider the seven Ds…

  1. Divorce

If any of your children were to divorce then there would be a risk, however remote, that any assets in their name, including your house, could be taken into account in the divorce settlement.

  1. Debt

In the event of any of your children getting seriously into debt or becoming bankrupt then there would be a risk, however remote, that their creditors may seek to force them to sell your dwelling-house in order to discharge the liability.

  1. Death

If any of your children were to die before you without making appropriate provision in their will in relation to your dwelling-house, then there is a risk that their share of your house would pass to an in-law. Indeed, the problem may be compounded if your son-in-law or daughter-in-law should subsequently remarry.

  1. Disagreement

You may subsequently want to sell your house and apply the sale proceeds to buy another house. There is a risk that your children will not agree with your request. In addition, there is a risk that your children may wish to sell your house without your agreement and seek to have you put out of your own home.

  1. Deliberate deprivation

Health Trusts/local authorities have rules against deliberate deprivation of assets. If it can be proved that you deliberately deprived yourself of an asset in order to get government help towards nursing home fees, then the value of your house could be clawed back from your children. There is no time limit on this, although the longer the period of time between your transferring ownership and going into a nursing home, the less likely it is that the transfer will be challenged.

  1. Deprivation feeling

It is very important that you should try and envisage how you would feel if you have given away ownership of your house and other assets to your children. Will you feel deprived? Will you feel out of control? Will this feeling cause you to lose sleep and wish you had not done it?

  1. Doubt

If you are in doubt about what you are doing, it is better to postpone any action until such time as you are sure.

A qualified advisor can talk you through your options, ensuring all angles have been considered.

Peter M Thompson TEP, Thompson Mitchell Solicitors, Portadown, Northern Ireland


An article of this kind can never provide a complete guide to the law in these areas, which may be subject to change from time to time. The opinions and suggestions made within this article should not be interpreted as specific advice in relation to any particular individual or individuals. Neither STEP, the article author or their firm accept responsibility for any loss occasioned by someone acting or refraining to act on the basis of the opinions and suggestions contained in this article. More