DEAR BOB: I am a widow, 81, whose primary asset is my home. I have two adult children to whom I would like to leave this home where they grew up. However, as I come from a family of “long-livers,” I am concerned I might outlive my assets as living expenses constantly increase. Also, my house will soon need repairs, which I am not sure how to pay for. My two children suggest I deed my house to them now and they will pay for the maintenance, taxes and insurance. Do you think this is a good idea? –Irene R.
DEAR IRENE: No. If you quitclaim your house to your adult children now, that could prove detrimental to both you and them.
Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.
For example, suppose you later decide it’s time for you to move to an assisted-living center where you will enjoy excellent care and three meals a day with no work. If you already gave away your home, where will you find the money to pay for your care?
Another consideration is if you gift your home to your two adult children now, they will take over your presumably low market-value adjusted-cost basis. They would be better off inheriting the house after you pass on, thus receiving a new “stepped-up basis” of market value on the date of your death.
If you are in reasonably good health, and expect to stay in your home at least five years, please look into a senior-citizen-homeowner reverse mortgage. You can choose from a lump sum to pay for repairs, monthly lifetime income, a credit line (except in Texas), or any combination. To find reputable local reverse mortgage originators, on the Internet go to www.reversemortgage.org.
CAN HOMEOWNER FORCE NEIGHBOR TO REMOVE A FENCE?
DEAR BOB: We bought our home about two years ago. At the time, our title insurance policy included a map showing we have 50-foot street frontage. As I came home from work every day, I thought to myself, “Our lot isn’t 50 feet wide.” After discussing this with my wife several times, I decided to measure. It turns out our lot is only about 42 feet wide. At the suggestion of a friend, I had a professional survey made. It turns out that our neighbor’s fence is 6 feet on our side of the correct boundary line. When I very politely asked her to move her fence, after showing her the survey, she told me, “Get lost, pal.” What recourse do I have? –Brent R.
DEAR BRENT: Because the fence is on your lot, it is your fence. You can remove it if you so desire since it belongs to you.
However, before you do so, I suggest you consult a local real estate attorney to discuss the possible legal consequences, such as a prescriptive easement for your neighbor.
WITHOUT LIFE ESTATE EVIDENCE, YOU HAVE NOTHING
DEAR BOB: My late husband and I were married 11 years before he died in 2005. His will left everything to his only child from his first marriage, a nasty daughter. Many times he told me, “When I die, my estate goes to my daughter but you can live in this house as long as you wish.” His estate is now in the Probate Court. The daughter has told me, “Start packing.” Can she force me out? –Marcy W.
DEAR MARCY: Please consult a local probate attorney. Without written evidence that your late husband intended to leave you a life estate in his house, you have nothing. I hate to be so blunt, but oral statements mean nothing when real estate is involved.
The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to Obtain the Best Appraisal of Your House or Condo,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at www.BobBruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center).