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Tracy King's Blog

Trusts, Wills, and Real Estate

When it comes to planning and organizing our “stuff” and making arrangements for our eventual demise, we act like we think we will live forever. The stories range from “my kids will get to deal with this” to “oh, we have a will and everything is set.” My guess is, 1 out of maybe 50 or even 100 people actually have sensible and useful arrangements made for what happens to themselves, their stuff, and their heirs after they pass on.

Without naming names, let me just share that there are people near and dear to me that  are among the majority of people unwilling to address the details of what to do with what they leave behind. Members of my family have had to play guessing games about “what would she have wanted us to do with ?” that cover a range of subjects from cremation or burial to who’s name is the house in? I’m not really pointing fingers, I know I should address some subjects like this for myself as well. I understand the reluctance to come to grips with the fact that none of us get out of here alive. But my husband and I did have wills and a trust drawn up a number of years ago.

Scenario 1: These days, many people live together without benefit of formal marriage. Yet, if one person owns a property separately and there is no will, the “partner” may have no legal standing to claim the property.

Scenario 2: A married couple have no children and no will. Let’s say the wife inherits property from a deceased parent in co-ownership with her brother. What happens if she passes away with no will? The probate laws will govern who inherits her share and very likely her husband will have a claim on the property even if she wanted it to go to her brother’s family. Or the property will have to be sold to settle the estate.

Scenario 3: An elderly couple have a will but no trust. The will was drawn up 40 years earlier and the laws have changed since then. One of the couple has a stroke and is no longer able to sign or understand a legal document. The other spouse no longer wants to live in the house and decides to sell it. He has to go to court and be declared his wife’s conservator in order to sign the deed on her behalf.

A very important fact that few people understand is that even if you have a will, your estate will have to be probated. This is an expensive, time consuming and cumbersome process. The best way you can escape probate court if you have property is to have a properly drawn up trust. Many people have thought that the joint tenancy method of holding property will take care of any issues and often that is true, but again you have the question of who eventually inherits and the state’s view may be different than what you really want.

A very simple and complete description of everything you need to have in place and why is here: I don’t know anything about the law firm, but their website is very easy to understand and use.
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