Real Property Transfers

What is real property?

Real property is land, property built on the land or permanent improvements to the land or property. The most common type of real property that people own is a home.  Personal property may become a part of the real property if it is attached in a permanent way. For example, a furnace usually becomes a part of your home. These attachments are known as “fixtures” in legal terms. 

What kinds of real property transfers are there?

There are three ways to transfer property:

Before transferring property through any sort of deed, talk to an attorney about the effect this may have on your taxes or on your eligibility for Medicaid/TennCare or other benefits.

What happens if there is more than one person on the deed?

If you buy or own a property with another person or add someone to your deed, you must carefully describe the kind of interest all owners have. In Tennessee there are three types of joint ownership:

Can I transfer my home but still live in it?

Yes. You can leave yourself a life interest in the home. This is called a “life estate,” and it gives you the right to live in the home for the rest of your life. Without a life estate, you will need the new owner’s permission to stay in the home. 

Will transferring property affect my ability to receive government benefits?

Transferring property is most likely to affect senior citizens who need TennCare/Medicaid to help pay for nursing home care. If you apply for TennCare (Tennessee’s Medicaid program), they will “look back” 5 years from the date of your application. If you transferred any property for less than the full value, then you may be subject to a “penalty period,” which means you must wait before you can get TennCare. If the property was transferred more than 5 years before the date of application, there should not be any penalty. You should talk to an attorney if you want to transfer your home, and you think you may at some point need nursing home care.

Will TennCare try to get payment from me if I get TennCare benefits?

Yes. To pay the State back for paying for your nursing home care, TennCare has a process called “Estate Recovery.” This means TennCare will file a claim against your estate after your death up to the value of the care provided. This may involve a Court ordering your property sold. 

Are there any exceptions to estate recovery?

Yes, there are some exceptions. If you are survived by a spouse, child under the age of 21, or a child of any age who is blind or disabled who is living in the property, TennCare will wait before attempting to sell your property. You should talk to an attorney to see if any of these exceptions apply to you. 

If my property does not cover the cost of my care, will my family be liable for the cost of my care?

Generally, no. TennCare can only recover from your estate. Family members will not be personally liable.

What other legal issues should I consider before I transfer my property?

Consider the following before transferring property:

Real Property Transfers PDF