DEAR BOB: During the December holidays, my adult son and daughter, along with their spouses and my three grandchildren, visited me at my home for several days. My daughter, a big-time New York City lawyer, suggested I “consider” putting the title to my house and two investment properties into a living trust to avoid probate when I pass on. I am 86, in relatively good health, but death might not be too far away. When I explained I might want to sell or refinance my house, or perhaps get a reverse mortgage, she really didn’t have any good reason why I should consider a living trust. However, I don’t want to burden my daughter and son after I pass on (or become senile) with Probate Court because I saw what happened to a good friend of mine whose estate was tied up there for about four years. What do you think of living trusts? –Ralph E.

DEAR RALPH: I highly recommend revocable living trusts for everyone who owns a home or other major assets. A living trust has two primary benefits: (1) avoidance of Probate Court costs and delays after the trustor dies, and (2) management of the living-trust assets if the trustor becomes incapacitated before death.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Perish the thought, but suppose you become incapacitated with Alzheimer’s disease or a severe stroke. If your major assets are in a living trust, and they need to be sold or refinanced to provide for your care, your successor trustee (probably your daughter or son) can handle that without Probate Court interference. However, if your major assets are not in a living trust, a conservator would have to be appointed by the Probate Court to manage your assets.

However, if all goes well and you live to 120 and die of old age, you can continue managing your living-trust assets just as you do now, including buying and selling. When you die, your heirs will still get a new stepped-up basis to the market value on the date of your death (unless Congress changes the tax law). More details are in my special report, “24 Key Questions Answered: Living Trust Secrets Reveal How to Avoid Probate Costs and Delays,” available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, Calif., 94010, or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at


DEAR BOB: We had to move out of town on short notice due to a terrific job promotion for my wife. Because I am self-employed, I can work virtually anywhere. Her employer provided a superb relocation plan and we bought a new house within a few weeks. However, it has now been about four months since we listed our old home for sale with a trusted real estate agent friend. When I was recently talking on the phone with another real estate agent, I asked for his opinion on why our home hadn’t sold. After he checked the local MLS (multiple listing service), he said our house isn’t even in the local MLS. When I confronted our listing agent, she said, “We don’t like to put classic houses like yours in the MLS because it cheapens them.” I was shocked. Thankfully, our listing recently expired. Should we re-list with the same agent or let the relocation company buy our house at a discounted price? –Mark H.

DEAR MARK: Definitely don’t re-list with that selfish, incompetent agent. Your agent was obviously trying to keep all the sales commission for herself or at least within her brokerage firm.

In today’s “buyer’s market” in most cities, unless you have an ultra-exclusive house worth more than $5 million, you need the powerful local MLS to tell buyers and their agents your house is available. Please be aware most MLS listings also appear on the Web site where prospective out-of-town buyers might be searching for a home just like yours.

If the discounted offer of your wife’s employer relocation firm is acceptable, it might be easiest to accept it and get your old home sold.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “2007 Realty Tax Tips-Eight Chapters of Tax Savings for Homeowners and Realty Investors,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, Calif., 94010, or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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