The IRS can go after any of your assets that you hold in your name whether in joint tenancy, tenant in common or otherwise. If your mom created a trust to hold your interest and put on restrictive provisions for distributions, you creditors, including the IRS would not be able to get at it. Your mother's lawyer was giving the correct advice in my opinion. That said, there are options for your mother to make the gift to you if that is what she wants. You should encourage your mother to discuss options with her estate planning attorney if that is really what she wants to do.
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As my colleague noted, the IRS can go after any assets held in your name, regardless of whether that property is held individually or jointly. If your mother would like you to have an interest in the property, she should talk to her estate planing attorney about transferring the deed to a trust with you and your siblings as beneficiaries. Certain language - called a spendthrift clause - can be included that would protect the property from being taken by any creditors, such as the IRS. Good luck.
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The other attorneys are correct. If you are gifted a portion of the home, the IRS will want your portion. Your mother should speak with an estate planning attorney so that all of your interests are protected.
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In general, the IRS can put a lien on your property if you owe money. In this case, the lien would cover your interest in the property (the portion/percentage you own). The property could not be sold without the lien being paid first or being paid from the proceeds of the sale. I am not sure whether the lawyer you mention is your mother's or your sister's lawyer, but I suggest you speak with him or her to understand the reasoning behind the advice. You could be opening yourself up to a collection action that you may not otherwise be susceptible to. If you do not understand or agree with the lawyer's advice, speak with a tax attorney in your area.
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I concur with my colleagues. I would also advise you to contact your own attorney regarding resolving the tax issue so that this debt does not continue to "follow you around."
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I would just add to this array of responses that if your mother's home was transferred to your sister individually, what were the reasons behind the transfer? For example, if your sister is living with your mother and the transfer was done for MassHealth planning purposes, the lawyer has given good advise. Transferring the property to someone other than the caretaker child could void the transfer and make the asset countable for MassHealth purposes.
I know it can be frustrating to think that you are being slighted in the distribution, but remember that the assets belong to your mother and as long as your sister is not exerting undue influence, then your mother should be permitted to distribute the assets to whom ever she pleases.
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