DEAR BOB: My dad died about six months ago. He was the surviving joint-tenant owner of the house where he and my mother lived for 34 years. She died in 1998. I am their only child. But my father did not leave a will. As I live about 600 miles away, I have no use for the house and want to sell it. However, a local probate attorney tells me that because there was no will or a living trust, a probate court proceeding is required. He said there is an expedited procedure, but it will take about six months, maybe longer. His fee, according to the state statute, will be about $6,400. This seems like a waste of time and money. Is this information correct? –Matt W.
DEAR MATT: Your dad died “intestate” without a written will, so his estate must be probated according to the state law of intestate succession where he resided. That requires notifying his possible creditors to file any claims, as well as checking to be sure there aren’t any other relatives entitled to a possible inheritance.
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Of course, this could have been avoided if your late father placed his major assets, including title to the house, into a revocable living trust to avoid probate court costs and delays.
Before hiring that probate attorney, I suggest you politely ask if he can reduce his fee because this estate is so simple. Many probate attorneys will lower their fees if you ask. If he refuses, unless this is a complicated estate, you might want to consult several other local probate attorneys to compare their fees.
IS AN APPRAISAL REQUIRED FOR EVERY HOME SALE?
DEAR BOB: Does every home sale require an appraisal? I plan to pay cash –Mung L.
DEAR MUNG: If you are paying all cash for a home, and no new mortgage will be obtained, there is no need for a professional appraisal. However, if you will be obtaining a new mortgage to help pay for your home, the mortgage lender will arrange for a professional appraisal.
HOW TO GET DEADBEAT CONDO OWNER TO PAY MONTHLY FEES
DEAR BOB: I own a condo in a small six-unit homeowner’s association. We all get along very well, except for one owner. She is kind of a “hippie” who is often gone for weeks and even months. Her monthly condo assessment fee is $423 per month and it is now delinquent for 11 months. This is a big drain on our association’s budget. As the treasurer, I am wondering what we can do to collect this money? –Ken R.
DEAR KEN: You and your fellow condo owners have been patient far too long with that owner who doesn’t pay her monthly fees.
I suggest you consult a local real estate attorney who specializes in condominium law. It will be necessary to record a lien against the deadbeat’s condo title and then foreclose on that lien. The procedure is similar to foreclosing on an unpaid mortgage. Of course, the attorney’s fees should be added to the amount of the unpaid lien.
Starting the condo lien foreclosure procedure should bring payment. However, if the situation results in a foreclosure sale of the condo for the unpaid lien amount, plus costs, that’s the owner’s problem.
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