DEAR BOB: In 1990 my partner and I put our investments and the house we owned into our revocable living trust, primarily to avoid probate when one of us died. When he died two years ago, there was no problem with the investments so I had his name removed from the brokerage accounts and joint bank account. But his name remains on the title to the house. I am told by the recorder of deeds office that I need to hire a lawyer or a title company to clear the title. Do I need to go to this expense? – Gerald W.
DEAR GERALD: There shouldn’t be any extraordinary expense if you are named in the revocable living trust as the successor trustee. You should be able to convey the title into your name alone as the property owner unless there was something unusual about the living trust.
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You should clear the title of your late co-owner’s name as soon as possible. There are so many reasons that I can’t list them all. Then you can create your own living trust to specify who you want to receive the realty title after you die. Or, you might decide to sell the property and you will then need to have the title in your name alone.
There is no reason to wait to clear the title of your late partner’s name.
IS BUYER’S AGENT OBLIGATED TO SHOW BUYER ALL HOMES?
DEAR BOB: I stupidly signed a six-month “buyer’s agent” contract with a buyer’s agent I met at a free seminar at the community center. At first, I liked her because she seemed very sincere. But when I didn’t make offers on any of the houses she showed me, she became hostile and unfriendly. However, I kept phoning her to ask about houses I saw advertised in the newspaper. When I asked why she didn’t call me about these new listings, she had various excuses. I later learned this buyer’s agent wasn’t showing me houses listed by so-called discount brokers at 5 percent or 4 percent commissions. Is this legal? – Sarah H.
DEAR SARAH: Your buyer’s agent should have shown, or at least discussed, all available local listings that meet your criteria.
Unfortunately, some buyer agents neglect to show their client buyers the listings where the selling (buyer’s) agent will receive a low share of the sales commission.
If your agent wasn’t showing you, or at least mentioning, all suitable listings, you probably have sound legal grounds for terminating your buyer’s agency contract for lack of due diligence by the agent. For more details, please consult a local real estate attorney.
WHAT IF LIVING-TRUST SUCCESSOR TRUSTEE IS DISHONEST?
DEAR BOB: I am involved in a revocable living trust. Our parents are dead. There are four boys and one sister. We each get 20 percent of the living trust assets. My sister is in charge of the trust. Mom died three years ago. But my sister won’t give us an accounting. What are our rights? – David M.
DEAR DAVID: As a beneficiary of the living trust created by your parents, you have a legal right to an accounting for the living-trust assets. The best way to enforce your legal rights is to hire a local attorney. If you and your four brothers split the cost, it should be worthwhile to obtain a complete accounting for living trust assets.
The new Robert Bruss special report, “The Whole Truth About Reverse Mortgages for Senior Citizen Homeowners,” 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 PDF download at www.bobbruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
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