Married couples who own a home as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the surviving spouse inherits the home, along with their basis, and it does not trigger a taxable event. Unfortunately, the capital gain exclusion is reduced to a single person’s share unless the survivor disposes of the property in the granted time.
Married couples, filing jointly, have up to $500,000 of capital gain exclusion on qualifying sales. As a single taxpayer, the survivor is only entitled up to $250,000 exclusion of capital gain. For instance, if the home at the time of death is worth $900,000 with a basis of $400,000, the gain is $500,000. If the surviving spouse sells the home, their exclusion is only a maximum of $250,000 which would make the other $250,000 subject to long-term capital gains tax.
However, there is an exception to the rule that if a sale occurs within two years of the death of their spouse, the survivor is entitled to the $500,0000 exclusion if the ownership and use tests are met prior to the death. The two-year period begins on the date of death and ends two-years after that date which means the property needs to close and fund by that anniversary.
For more information contact your tax professional and download IRS Publication 523 and download the Homeowners Tax Guide.