DEAR BOB: My father died almost a year ago. My mother lives in their house but she has done nothing about the title. My father’s will left the house to her. Should she do something about the estate? – Will W.

DEAR WILL: Yes. After a property owner dies, the title must be changed. If this is not done, costly problems often develop later.

To illustrate, suppose your mother decides to sell the house. She lists it with a Realtor who finds an acceptable buyer. But your mother won’t be able to deliver marketable title until your late father’s name is cleared from the title.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

If title were held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, it is usually very simple for the surviving joint tenant to clear the title by recording a certified copy of the death certificate and the affidavit of survivorship required in most states.

However, if your late father held title in his name alone, and passed the house to his surviving spouse by his will, a probate court proceeding might be required. Some states have exemptions for small estates and inter-spousal transfers.

Your mother should consult a real estate attorney to clear the title to her house now while there is no urgency. Better yet, she should consider placing her title into her revocable living trust so, when she dies, probate court costs and delays will not be incurred by her heirs.


DEAR BOB: Some time ago you highly recommended a new book for real estate agents. My nephew just got his real estate license and has already made his first sale. I want to encourage him. What is the name of that book? – Carla W.

DEAR CARLA: I’ve recently recommended several excellent new books for real estate agents. The best one is “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” by Gary Keller.

He is the co-founder of the nationwide Keller-Williams Realty chain. This superb book is available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and


DEAR BOB: My late husband and I held title to our home in our joint living trust. He passed away about eight months ago. I plan to stay in my home “forever.” It was so reassuring to have that living trust. During his extended illness, I had to obtain a home equity credit line to help pay for his care. Thanks to the living trust, even though he was incapacitated and unable to sign the papers, I had no trouble signing as trustee and getting the necessary funds. My question is do I have to change the living trust now that he has passed on? – Alicia W.

DEAR ALICIA: No. I’m glad to hear your living trust worked out so well, as it should.

It sounds like you have a joint living trust to hold title to your home. After one joint trustor dies, the living trust becomes irrevocable. That means you can’t change its terms (unless specified in the documentation). For details, please consult your attorney.

More information is in the special report, “Living Trust Pros and Cons for Avoding 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 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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