Life estate puts home sale on hold

DEAR BOB: I own a house where my elderly mother holds a lifeestate. She lives alone in the house and may someday opt for a smallerapartment. If this happens, and she refuses to release her life estate, do Ihave any legal recourse? –Patrick L.

DEAR PATRICK: Legally, you are the remainderman, subject toyour mother’s life estate.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

You should get a copy of the document that created her lifeestate. If it was well written, it should say that when your mother dies ormoves out for longer than six months, her life estate terminates.

If the life-estate document was poorly written, it isopen-ended and gives your mother a life estate without stating what happens ifshe moves out for longer than six months.

Should that happen, you would probably have to bring a quiettitle lawsuit to terminate her life estate. For more details, please consult alocal real estate attorney.


DEAR BOB: Is there any way to leave my house to my threesons after my death other than through my will? I don’t think I have enoughassets to merit having a living trust –Aida S.

DEAR AIDA: If title to your house passes under the terms ofyour will, and your will has to be probated in court, the attorney fees, othercosts, and delays could be substantial.

However, if you hold title to your house and other majorassets in your living trust, probate costs and delays are avoided.

Unless you die and leave a net estate exceeding $2 millionin 2006 or 2007, there won’t be any federal estate tax due. Depending on yourstate of residence, there probably will be little or no state inheritance taxbecause you are leaving your assets to your sons who are close relatives. Fordetails, please consult a local estate-planning attorney.


DEAR BOB: A very large old tree in my neighbor’s backyard isleaning toward my house. It shows signs of significant rot and cracking at thebase of the trunk. If it falls toward my house, it would easily causesignificant damage and pose a major hazard, as it would crash through mybedroom. Besides asking my neighbors to cut down the tree, do I have anyrecourse? –Scott O.

DEAR SCOTT: Yes. You should consult your homeowner’sinsurance agent. He or she will probably write a polite letter to the neighboroutlining the negligence if the neighbor doesn’t remove or at least trim thetree to reduce the hazard of its falling onto your house.

I recently had a similar situation at my home. I contactedour local code enforcement officer who notified my out-of-town neighbors abouttheir two tall trees that were leaning toward my house. The absentee neighborswere very nice and had their two trees removed within a few weeks.

Presuming you have already tried being nice to the neighborbut without results, maybe it’s time to become more aggressive. After youcontact your insurance agent, and the local code enforcement officer, you couldsue the neighbor in a private nuisance abatement lawsuit. If the judge agreesthe tree is a hazard, he or she could issue a court order to force the neighborto abate the nuisance and remove the dangerous tree. For details, pleaseconsult a local real estate attorney.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “How to BuyFixer-Upper Houses with Little or No Cash for Fun and Fortune,” is nowavailable for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or bycredit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant delivery at Questions for this columnare welcome at either address.

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

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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