DEAR BOB: I am a longtime reader and value your real estate knowledge. But I don’t understand why you constantly recommend revocable living trusts to hold title to real estate. Both of my parents died within a few years of each other. When my mother died, her will left everything to my father. Our attorney handled everything promptly with no delays or large costs. When my father died a few years later, his will left his house and everything else to my brother and me. We were named co-executors of his will. Again, the same attorney handled all the paperwork promptly. We paid his fee and some additional expenses, which were not excessive. There was no federal estate tax or state inheritance tax. My will leaves everything to my wife (or to our children if we both die together). I don’t see any reason justifying the cost of a living trust. Isn’t a living trust just a tax avoidance scheme for the very rich? –Dan VanA.

DEAR DAN: No. Revocable living trusts are for everyone who owns assets exceeding his or her state’s probate court exemption amount, usually $50,000 to $100,000. Living trusts are not a tax avoidance scheme.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

You and your brother were very fortunate there were no complications with your parents’ estates. There could have been long delays or other problems that a revocable living trust can eliminate.

For example, if a living trust principal or trustor becomes incapacitated and unable to manage his/her assets, perhaps with Alzheimer’s disease, severe stroke, or a coma, then the successor trustee can manage the living-trust assets without probate court interference or the need to have a conservator or guardian appointed.

Presuming you and your wife own your home together, suppose you become incapacitated with Alzheimer’s disease. Your wife decides the best thing to do is sell the home to pay for your care in a convalescent home.

However, because you are incapacitated, she can’t sell the home alone without a court-appointed conservator or guardian to represent you. Such court action would not be needed with a living trust.


DEAR BOB: The city sewer backed up into our home, causing extensive damages of about $15,000 to replace the carpets, flooring, and other components. Our homeowner’s insurance company refuses to pay, pointing to an exclusion in the policy. The city says they are not liable. Do we have any recourse? –Nathan R.

DEAR NATHAN: Most homeowner’s insurance policies no longer include coverage for sewer backups. Cities routinely reject sewer backup damage claims. However, you might want to consult a local attorney about suing the city if fault can be proven.

Where I live, the city recently enacted an ordinance requiring homeowners to install backflow valves to prevent sewer backups into homes. I am told a far cheaper remedy is to leave the cap on your sewer cleanout loose so any backup won’t go into your home.


DEAR BOB: About four months ago, we bought our first home. It is in an older community of very nice homes. Last month, when our toilets wouldn’t flush properly, we called Roto-Rooter. The man informed us we have a septic tank system and our home is not connected to the city sewer, which, we learned, was installed on our street about 15 years ago. Do we have any recourse against our home seller and the realty agent to pay the estimated $8,500 total cost to connect to the city sewer? –Bryan R.

DEAR BRYAN: Especially in an established neighborhood, most home buyers and real estate agents presume the homes are connected to the city sewer. But that is not always the case, especially where homes were built with septic systems and the city sewer was installed later.

Unless the seller’s disclosure statement falsely failed to reveal the home was not connected to the city sewer, the seller and the listing agent probably have no liability to you unless you specifically asked, “Is this house connected to the city sewer?” For more details, pleas consult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Obtain the Best Appraisal of Your House or Condo,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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