What happens to your home when you pass away?

Q. My husband and I own our own home. I am concerned about what will happen when one of us dies? Does our title need to go through the Probate Court?

A. You can minimize the need to probate an estate by making sure that all of your assets including your home are in both names. Your original deed would need to indicate that you and your husband hold title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship so that the surviving spouse would have 100% ownership without involving probating the home.

Another option would be to hold title to your home in a Revocable Trust. Any asset held in trust would be immediately available to your beneficiaries upon your passing. Assets in a Revocable Trust skip the probate process, thus keeping your estate private and allowing your assets to be given to your heirs quickly.

You should review your estate planning with a professional.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Selling Your Home? Do you need to accept the first offer you get?

Q. As a seller, do I need to take the first offer that comes in?  What else can I do?

A.  Offers, even very attractive ones, are rarely accepted as-is.  Usually a Seller will be willing to accept some of the Buyer’s terms and want to modify others.  This is done by making a “counter offer.”  Counter offers, for example, may be based on:

Price — The Buyer has made an offer below what the Seller is looking for;

Closing Date – The Seller cannot meet the requested date;

Household Items – The Buyer has asked for items not listed  – i.e. appliances, etc;

Most important to note is that for a contract to be binding, the initial offer, and all counter offers, must be in writing.  Any changes to a contract must be initialed by all parties.  There is no contract until all parties have initialed all changes and signed.  Until this is accomplished the property could be sold to someone else!

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Buying or Selling an older home…What you need to know about lead paint.

Q.I am buying an older home and wonder if it has lead paint.  How will I know?  What do I have to do about it?

A. In New Hampshire, if a property was built before 1977, it may contain lead paint, which could be hazardous to children or pregnant women.  A Seller’s only responsibility is to notify the Buyer that a possible lead paint hazard does exist.  However, if this notification is not given, the Buyer has no recourse.  If this is a concern of yours, be sure to ask.

This issue becomes more complex if you are buying an investment property.  If indeed there is lead paint in the property, you cannot rent to families with children under the age of 6 or without rectifying the problem.  If you already have such a tenant in the property when you become aware of the lead paint, you must request they vacate, but cannot evict them.  You then have 30 days in which to remove, replace or permanently cover the lead based substance.

To find out if such a hazard exists, ask your Realtor to refer you to companies that will do testing for you.  Be sure, however, that this is addressed in your Purchase and Sales Agreement.

Published in: on March 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Purchasing Property with a Partner? Check this out.

Q. I would like to purchase a piece of real estate with my business partner.  How should we address the issue of what happens with the real estate upon the death of one of us?

A. You could take title as “tenants in common”, rather than “joint tenants with rights of survivorship”.  This would ensure that your share of the property would pass to your heirs, as outlined in your will, instead of transferring to your partner automatically.  I would recommend that you each update your wills to be sure you address this important issue.

Another option would be to for a Limited Liability Company or Corporation.  Both of these will allow you to structure the formation documents in a manner that protects each partners interest and you and also incorporate a Buy/Sell Agreement.  Make sure to speak to your financial lender in advance as many lenders do not allow you to purchase or refinance certain types of property while owned by a LLC or Corp.

Your real estate is generally one of the most valuable assets you may own, make sure to take the proper precautions to protect your interest and those of your heirs.

As with any legal issue, the advice of a trained professional is always beneficial.  Our firm is a full service law firm covering such legal matters as personal injury and estate planning.  If we can assist you, please call or visit our website.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Buying a house this year? Think about using a Realtor who is a Buyer’s Agent.

Q. I am buying a house this year.  What is the difference between a Buyer’s Agent and Seller’s Agent?

A. All Realtors are obligated to disclose to you any hidden property defects known to them, no matter who they work for.  A Seller’s Agent is hired by, paid by, and works for the seller. They may only discuss the physical property itself, unless otherwise authorized by the seller.

Because a Buyer’s Agent works for you, not only are they obligated to share with you the Seller’s situation and motivation, they can disclose specific pricing information relative to their opinion of what the property is worth, what price you might offer, settle at, etc…  A Buyer’s Agent will typically be paid for out of the commission agreed upon to be paid by the Seller so there should be no out of pocket expense to you.

What if you’ve hired a Buyer’s Agent and purchase a property “For Sale By Owner”?  You’ll have your own agent to negotiate on your behalf, draw up the contract and follow the transaction through completion.  You will also owe your agent whatever commission you contractually agreed on, however most of the time you agent will be able to negotiate directly with the Seller to have the Seller pay them a commission on the sale thereby alleviating you of any cost.

Many Realtors now work as either Buyer’s or Seller’s Agent, depending on the needs of the customer.  The most knowledgeable Buyer’s Agents are the ones that have had specific training in that regard – don’t hesitate to ask them what training they have had!

Should you need a referral to a great agent in your area do not hesitate to ask.

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment