Everett Ortner passed away on Tuesday May 22, at the age of ninety two.
For many who live in Brooklyn, his name is synonymous with the gentrification of several burbs in and around the Park Slope area. Ortner and his wife, Evelyn, were fixtures in the social life of Brooklyn and were instrumental in revitalizing the community. In particular, they were well known for their efforts in preserving the brownstone homes of Brooklyn, reports the Park Slope Patch.
Ortner passed away without leaving any ascertainable descendants. What is known about his estate is that he owned a brownstone house which had substantially appreciated in value over the years.
In fact, his known asset is telling of the legacy he leaves behind. Ortner was behind the push to rejuvenate Brooklyn. Many attribute their millionaire status to him, claiming that he pushed them to buy a brownstone house back in the days when nobody wanted to purchase in Brooklyn.
Ortner's house was purchased in 1963 at the low price of $32,500. If anyone has tried to shop the real estate market for a Brooklyn brownstone now, a Zillow.com search would show that the value of a nineteenth century brownstone sits at over a million, if not several million.
While little is known about Ortner's estate plan, his house and its enormous appreciation lend themselves to an important estate planning question: Where does a house fit in when planning one's estate?
Nobody can predict whether or not a house would appreciate in value, although many would generally assume that real estate prices rise in the long term. While Ortner and his wife likely did not know that they would die millionaires, it's not unforeseeable if you own real property.
And with that in mind, it's also a possibility that the value of your appreciated property could push your estate past the estate tax exemption amount. Which means that if you die in a year where the value of your estate is higher than the estate tax exemption amount, the IRS could take a chunk of your estate.
While many people place a home in a revocable living trust, such a trust might not shield the estate from estate tax, as the assets in the revocable trust are included in the probate estate of the decedent.
Many estate planners swear by qualified personal residence trusts. These trusts give one the right to live in their home for a certain number of years and then giving their home to another, with the value being reduced by the number of years that the original owner lived in it. The problem with these trusts is that if the original owner dies before the term of years is up, the house is counted in his probate estate.
In the case of Everett Ortner, giving away his home to charity wouldn't be a bad option. The house would need to be donated to a qualifying charity and given its historic nature, it may fit the description of qualified conservation property. The estate could take a fair market value deduction on the home and this would substantially decrease the estate's tax liability.
There are many ways to factor a house into an estate plan, but it's always wise to speak to an attorney.