Real Estate

Estate Planning

Recently, I have been visiting with several people who are dealing with parents who are transitioning to senior living or who have recently passed, most of whom have not planned for this phase of their lives. That made me think that I should discuss this matter with my clients. It seems that it is easy to put off estate planning thinking we will always have time, or that we are too young to think about it, or it may be a matter of expense.
If someone passes and owns assets the heirs will normally need to probate the estate. Probate protects creditors and allows them to get paid and the taxes on the estate to be paid. It also identifies the beneficiaries of the estate and allows for the passing of wealth to whomever the deceased wanted it conveyed. You cannot sell real estate until it has been probated with the a few exceptions.
1. Property is held in joint tenancy
a. If you are married and both spouses are on deed, this is most likely
b. If you are siblings or friends, you are most likely tenants in common and not joint tenants
2. A Transfer of Death Deed has been filed
3. Trust exists and the property is in the Trust.
Simply putting your property in joint tenancy may open you up to tax implications or credit liabilities you could avoid. Estate planning can save your heirs thousands of dollars after you are gone.
It is important that you have a Will and/or Trust, especially if you have children or own property. Without a Will, the court is bound by state statue to disperse your assets according to the scheme the legislature has decided on.
In some cases, all you may need is a transfer on death deed (“TOD”). A TOD deed allows your property to transfer to a beneficiary of your choice at the time of your death without going through probate. The deed must be recorded prior to your death and can be rescinded at any time. An attorney can draw up the necessary paperwork for a nominal fee.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary. Additionally, if it is an irrevocable trust it may not be considered part of the taxable estate, so fewer taxes may be due upon your death. Assets in a trust may also be able to pass outside of probate.
Regardless of how you decide to handle your estate, I suggest you take the opportunity to meet with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. Estate planning makes it possible for your wishes to be carried out. It allows you to provide for your family and/or charity of your choice. You can also give instructions regarding your burial desires and any legal conditions for inheritance.
As a professional realtor, I have had the opportunity to visit and work with several attorneys. I’m always happy to recommend someone who I feel confident will provide you good service and expert knowledge.
Sandi Walker

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