The Day of Reckoning 10/14/21
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew a day of reckoning was surely coming? This is the day that loomed overhead for days, weeks, months or even decades when you knew an account would have to be settled. Of course, if the day of reckoning would result in something favorable, there would probably be no procrastination. On the other hand, we tend to put off as long as possible the settling of an account which we predict will have adverse consequences.
In my practice, I have seen many cases where the day of reckoning came for individuals/ families when they had to deal with an inevitable situation involving inherited property. Following is a description of a typical scenario. Mom and Dad purchase a house and raise their family in the house. One of them passes away and the other parent continues to live in the house. At some point in time, one of the children moves into the home to help the surviving spouse and continues to live there after the death of the last parent. It also happens frequently that one or more of the children never left home in the fi rst place. The home may be paid for (“free and clear”) or have a mortgage. The occupant(s) pay the utilities, taxes, insurance and any mortgage on the property. Because of various reasons, they leave the utilities and legal title of the home in the name of the parents. This cozy arrangement can go on for years as long as bills are paid on time and no one in the family complains about the arrangement.
Whether there are several heirs or just one, one day the need to change the title will arrive. When that day fi nally gets here, it could prove to be a very time consuming and quite an expensive process! Usually this day comes when one of the heirs decides he or she wants his or her share of the property, or there is a need to mortgage or sell the property. This could be 15 or more years after the last parent passed away. The triggering event raises many questions such as what was the value of the home when the last parent passed away? What is the value of the home now? If there are several heirs, does the one who lived there owe the others a fair rent for the time that he or she lived there? Is a probate case required?
Maybe there was only one heir who lived in the house for 20 years, but then passed away before doing the required legal work. Now his or her heirs might move into the house and keep the party going for an additional amount of time. Be sure, however, that “day of reckoning” will eventually come.
© 2021 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved. (You may obtain further information at the website www. marlenecooperlaw.com, by email at MarleneCooperLaw@gmail. com, by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).