DEAR BOB: You often recommend the importance of revocable living trusts to avoid probate. Is there any way to prepare a living trust without having to hire an expensive lawyer? Also, if I have a living trust, do I need a will? – Sylvia S.

DEAR SYLVIA: Yes, you can prepare your own living trust using pre-printed forms. There are several excellent living trust books available in bookstores that contain do-it-yourself forms.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

However, most people are not able to follow through and prepare their own living trust to avoid probate. The reason is everyone’s situation is different. The printed forms usually won’t exactly cover your situation.

Depending on where you live, attorneys who specialize in living trusts will correctly prepare your living trust for less than $1,000 or at the most $2,500 if you have a complicated situation.

Be sure the living trust legal service includes deeding your real estate into your living trust. This is the big mistake too many people make. They have a living trust prepared but fail to follow through with a recorded quit claim deed into their living trust. An unfunded living trust with no assets is worthless.

Yes, you need a will in addition to your living trust. The reason is your living trust probably won’t include all your assets, such as your furniture, your stamp collection, and other assets. Also, if your living trust is defective for any reason, then your will controls. For full details, please consult a local probate attorney.


DEAR BOB: My wife and I are considering buying a home in a “restricted-deed gated community,” which requires at least one owner to be 55 or older. Friends tell us such areas don’t appreciate in market value as much as homes in communities without age restrictions. Do you have any information on this issue? – Sean McG.

DEAR SEAN: I have not been able to locate any appraisal information to answer your question.

However, when the number of prospective buyers is limited, such as by age restrictions, that logically hurts market value appreciation.

The same principle applies to condominiums, which, until recently, had limited buyer demand because many prospective home buyers wouldn’t even consider condominiums. But, as prices of single-family houses appreciated rapidly, many prospective home buyers were forced to compromise by purchasing condos.


DEAR BOB: A few months ago, my wife and I vacationed where we thought we might like to retire in a few years. We foolishly bought a modest second home to be built in a nice new subdivision. A major benefit is our new home is on a scenic river. Now we discovered this river often floods. Even the developer can’t obtain mortgage financing for us because of the flood problem. But he refuses to refund our $25,000 earnest money deposit. What can we do? – Fred R.

DEAR FRED: Are the words fraud, scam, misrepresentation and sucker in your vocabulary? I suggest you retain a local real estate attorney to sue that developer for refund of your $25,000 deposit. Just be thankful you didn’t proceed further to buy that flood-prone new house.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Everything Homeowners Need to Know About the $250,000 and $500,000 Home Sale Tax Exemption,” 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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