DEAR BOB: My aunt recently passed away suddenly. She owned a house and a small bank account. We were supposed to open a living trust for her, but never got around to it. Of course, now it’s too late. She didn’t have any children, but is survived by two sisters and one brother. She always indicated the house would go to one of the sisters who didn’t own a home. But there was no will. My aunt’s name was the only name on the deed. I figure we have to go into that nasty Probate Court you often discuss. What are the steps to proceed? –Colin F.

DEAR COLIN: I am sorry to learn of that sad situation. Because your aunt died without a will, she died “intestate.” That means the state law where she was a resident determines who will inherit her assets, including the house she wanted to go to that sister.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Unfortunately, unless the other heirs agree the house should go to the sister, if the three siblings are the closest surviving relatives, they will probably inherit the estate equally under the state law of intestate succession.

Whoever wants to be appointed the estate administrator by the local probate court where your aunt lived should contact a probate attorney in that town to start the proceedings. Unless your aunt left a very small estate that is exempt from probate, the court proceedings will cost money and delay distribution of the estate. Of course, a living trust would have avoided such costs and delays.


DEAR BOB: Thanks for your recent information about buying a home for nothing down. However, is it possible to buy a home for nothing down with poor credit? –Brian W.

DEAR BRIAN: If you have a job with steady income, you probably can obtain a “subprime loan.” But the interest rate will be high, currently 9 percent or higher in today’s money market.

But maybe your credit isn’t so bad. To check your FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) score, go to After correcting any credit report errors, then shop for mortgage approval before shopping for a home.

Major mortgage lenders such as Wells Fargo offer subprime home loans, as do many independent “no name” lenders who originate mortgages primarily through local mortgage brokers.


DEAR BOB: I have been in the real estate business more than 50 years. How can one group rezone a business or residence out of use and then say it is a “non-conforming use?” Is there any type of homeowner’s insurance policy that has coverage for such a loss? –Dick B.

DEAR DICK: There is no vested right to the current zoning for a property. Properties are rezoned every day by city councils and county officials as demands for various uses change. Homeowner’s insurance does not offer zoning change coverage.

However, before a property can be rezoned there must be public hearings.

Current property uses are usually “grandfathered,” either permanently or for a number of years. However, if more than 50 percent of such a non-conforming use property is damaged or destroyed, such as by a fire, the building usually cannot be rebuilt and it must conform to the new zoning. For full details, please consult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Pros and Cons of Today’s Five Best Real Estate Profit Opportunities,” 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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