DEAR BOB: About six years ago, I was diagnosed with inoperable terminal cancer. My doctor told me I had, at most, a year to live, probably less. So I deeded my house to my only heir, my daughter. Thanks to experimental drugs, my rare form of cancer went into remission. But about four months ago, my daughter was killed in an auto crash. Her will, dated 1999, leaves her assets to her now ex-husband. I have no idea why she didn’t change her will when they divorced in 2002. The unhappy result is “my house” where I am still living goes to my daughter’s ex-husband. Do I have any legal recourse? – Wanda G.
DEAR WANDA: Please consult a local attorney. From your description of the situation, it appears the house you deeded to your late daughter now belongs to her ex-husband.
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Your situation is another reason why property owners should not transfer titles to their heirs, in anticipation of death. A far better alternative would have been to place your home’s title into your revocable living trust, naming your daughter as successor beneficiary.
However, she died first. After that event, if you had a living trust, you could have changed it to reflect your new wishes. More important, you would have retained complete control, including the ability to sell or refinance your home. When you deeded your house to your daughter, you lost control of it.
At this time, I know of no legal remedy to regain control of your house from your late daughter’s ex-husband. Details of living trust benefits are in my special report, “Living Trust Pros and Cons for Avoiding Probate Costs and Delays for Your Heirs,” available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet download at www.bobbruss.com.
CAN HOMEOWNER BE FORCED TO REMOVE NEIGHBOR’S FENCE?
DEAR BOB: We bought our home about three years ago. The neighbor who owns the house at the rear of ours has constantly complained that “our fence” is about 5 feet on his side of the boundary and he wants us to remove it. But we didn’t build this fence. It was built by a previous owner. Can we be forced to move the fence? – Damon H.
DEAR DAMON: Because you didn’t build the fence that is allegedly on the neighbor’s property, it’s not your fence. In fact, if you try to remove it, you might be liable for trespass. For more details, please consult a local real estate attorney.
HOW TO FIND A REVERSE MORTGAGE FOR MOM
DEAR BOB: My mother, age 83, is a semi-retired real estate sales agent. Although she is no longer able to walk very well to show houses, she comes to the brokerage office every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. She has a handsome young male assistant, thirtysomething, who shows houses to prospective buyers and takes listings. Her referrals are fantastic. All she does is sit in the office and wait for her phone to ring from her previous buyers and sellers. Last year, she earned about $65,000 and she told me her assistant took home more than $125,000. But if she quits working due to her declining health, her income will drop to zero (except for social security). I want to investigate a reverse mortgage for her now. But I can’t find any local reverse mortgage lenders. Where can I find several to see what they have to offer? – Rupert M.
DEAR RUPERT: Congratulations to your mom for working as long as she enjoys doing so. You should also be congratulated for investigating reverse mortgages before the need arises.
Most traditional mortgage lenders do not originate reverse mortgages. The easiest place to find reputable local reverse mortgage lenders is at www.reversemortgage.org. Just click on the state where your mother lives and you will then have the names and phones of reverse mortgage representatives in her area.
Even if she is not yet ready to retire and enjoy the reverse mortgage benefits, this might be a good time to arrange one for future use. More details are in my special report, “Secrets of Tax-Free Reverse Mortgage income for Senior Citizen Homeowners,” available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet download at www.bobbruss. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
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