Editor’s note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss’ “Best of” collection first appeared Sunday, June 11, 2006.
DEAR BOB: We live about 50 percent of the year in our Florida house and the remainder of the year in our other home “up North.” This past winter, when we returned to our Florida home, we were shocked to discover our neighbor had built a very ugly concrete block fence between our properties. At first glance, it looked to me like he tried to “grab” at least 5 feet of our lot. Although I didn’t say anything to him, I hired a professional surveyor to determine where the lot line is located. It turned out the neighbor took almost 7 feet along our lot line. In other words, the concrete block fence is 7 feet on my side of the boundary. When I confronted him with a copy of my survey, he challenged it as probably inaccurate. What recourse do I have? –Ryan R.
DEAR RYAN: Please consult a local real estate attorney. He or she can review the facts and advise your best course of legal action.
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From your description, it appears the neighbor built the new concrete block fence on your property. That means the fence belongs to you and you can remove it.
In addition, you might be entitled to damages, such as the cost of demolishing that fence, removing the debris, and restoring your property to the pre-fence condition.
ARE POST-MORTEM DEEDS VALID?
DEAR BOB: My parents own a summer and winter home. They recently went to their longtime family attorney to discuss their wills and how to avoid probate costs and delays. I had suggested a living trust to them, as you often recommend. Instead, their attorney updated their wills and had them sign quitclaim deeds to their properties. He said after they die, he will have these deeds recorded to transfer title without probate. Is this legal? –Durk R.
DEAR DURK: As an attorney, I am not comfortable with such post-mortem deeds for many reasons. The general rule is a deed can effectively convey title only while the grantor is alive. But some attorneys recommend post-mortem deeds as an alternative to probate. As long as nobody objects, such deeds are probably effective.
CHANGING CONDO DOCUMENTS CAN BE A BIG HASSLE
DEAR BOB: I own a condominium where the annual membership meeting is held each February. The condo is in Michigan, but perhaps 50 percent of our condo owners spend the winters in Arizona, Florida or Texas. The result is few members are in town to attend the annual meeting where important matters are often decided. Although there are always plenty of proxy votes, I feel it is dishonest to have the annual meeting when few condo owners are present. What can we do? –Nathan R.
DEAR NATHAN: Your condo homeowner association’s conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs), or by-laws, specify when the annual meeting of the association shall be held. To change the meeting date will require a vote of the members. There will probably be legal fees to have the change prepared. This can be a big hassle, which might be expensive, especially if the majority of condo owners are satisfied or just doesn’t care. Unless there is a pressing reason to change the annual meeting date, I suggest forgetting the issue.
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, 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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