DEAR BOB: A year ago my husband died unexpectedly at age 55. He did not have a will or any life insurance. We lived in our home more than 25 years and have a large amount of equity in it, but I am thinking of relocating to a lower-cost area. Title to our home is in both names as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Should I hire a lawyer to transfer the title to my name alone and will I have to go through probate court? –Annie G.
DEAR ANNIE: In most states, all that is necessary for a survivor to clear the joint tenancy title is to record (1) a certified copy of the deceased joint tenant’s death certificate, and (2) an affidavit of survivorship.
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A phone call to the local recorder of deeds will inform you if any additional paperwork is necessary. Most surviving joint tenants don’t need to hire an attorney to do this simple title work.
The probate court usually will not be involved. After you hold the title to your home in your name alone as the surviving joint tenant, then you are ready to sell the home if you decide to do so.
IF TENANT IS LATE WITH THE RENT, START AN EVICTION
DEAR BOB: I own a commercial property that is leased to a used-car dealer. He is always chronically late paying the monthly rent. He ignores the 10 percent late fee. A friend told me if I take my tenant to court, the judge probably won’t evict him. I have an offer from a reliable car-dealer tenant who wants to lease the lot. What should I do? –John B.
DEAR JOHN: I suggest you hire a landlord-tenant attorney in the community who is experienced with commercial evictions. The next time your tenant is late paying the rent, phone the attorney and tell him to start eviction. This is not a do-it-yourself project, especially with a commercial tenant who will probably hire an attorney.
The general procedure is to serve the tenant with a notice to “pay rent or quit.” If he doesn’t pay rent by the deadline, don’t accept any late or partial rent. Then proceed with an unlawful detainer eviction. Forget about collecting any late fees because many judges refuse to enforce them. But you can get rid of that troublesome tenant even if he has a lease.
YOU CAN’T OUTLIVE A SENIOR CITIZEN REVERSE MORTGAGE
DEAR BOB: My wife and I are in our mid-70s. We have investigated a reverse mortgage, which would provide lifetime income. Also, in case of an emergency, we can obtain a lump sum, such as to replace the roof, although it would reduce our monthly income. Both my wife and I come from families with “long livers.” Her parents died in their 90s and mine lasted almost as long. What happens if we live into our 90s? Will our reverse-mortgage money eventually run out? –Kenneth W.
DEAR KENNETH: No. You cannot outlive a reverse mortgage even if you and/or your wife live to 120.
However, by then there probably won’t be any equity left in your home. But who cares? You can enjoy the tax-free, lifetime reverse-mortgage income as long as you continue living in your home.
More details are in my new special report, “Everything You Need to Know About Reverse Mortgage Pros and Cons for Senior Citizen Homeowners,” 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 www.BobBruss.com. Questions for this column are welcome at either address.
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Real Estate Center).