DEAR BOB: My aunt passed away. I am her beneficiary on her insurance policies. But she didn’t leave a will. She owned a house. I am her only living relative. Is the house mine? It has a VA mortgage – Cindy B.

DEAR CINDY: The fact your late aunt named you as beneficiary on her insurance policies is irrelevant.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Because your aunt died without a will, the state law of intestate succession where she resided determines who will receive her assets. This sad situation would not have occurred if she had a will or, better yet, a living trust to avoid probate costs and delays.

As your late aunt’s only living relative, you probably will receive title to her house. However, a probate court proceeding will be required.

You should consult a local probate attorney for guidance in how best to proceed with your aunt’s estate. If you don’t act, the city or county public guardian or administrator will take control of the property for distribution.


DEAR BOB: We own a mobile home (no permanent foundation). We need to find a senior citizen reverse mortgage lender that will lend on our mobile home. Where can I find one? – John N.

DEAR JOHN: Sorry, but senior citizen reverse mortgages are only available on houses and condominiums which have individual title deeds.

In most states, a mobile home that is not on a separate lot with a foundation is not considered real estate and it is not eligible for reverse mortgage benefits.


DEAR BOB: My father-in-law died in July 2004. My mother-in-law died in 2003. I know her $250,000 exemption expired. The house needs to be sold. Does the house have to be sold in 2004 to claim that $250,000 exemption? – Barb P.

DEAR BARB: You left out a key component of the puzzle. Who inherited the house when your father-in-law died?

I will presume your husband inherited the house. As a result, he received a new cost basis, which is stepped-up to market value on the date of his father’s death.

Whenever he sells that house, his capital gain is only the difference between his stepped-up basis and the actual sales price. If the house sells for less than the stepped-up market value basis, no capital gains tax will be due. For more details, please consult your tax adviser.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Robert’s Realty Rules: How to Avoid the 10 Worst Home Seller Mistakes,” is now 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 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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