Solano Real Estate Scene: Living trust can protect home for heirs

Women and men are living longer than ever on average, but all of us are destined to die eventually. Approximately 2.9 million Americans died in 2019 and 3.3 million in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Death is part of life and when a loved one dies, we hope it happens after they lived a full, happy life – between 90 and 100 years old – so we can have a celebration of life party. Realtors, accountants, lawyers, title companies and mortgage companies help the survivors of the deceased with the real estate that is left behind. In just the past few months, and unrelated to Covid-19, I have seen three separate senior citizen homeowners die without a living trust, one of the three without a last will and testament that could be found. All three had equity in the home they owned and all three had relatives who cared about them. The family will now have to deal with probate fees and the courts, which all could have been avoided if the seniors had a simple living trust. It is common for potential heirs to avoid talking about the “what if” scenarios with their parents and grandparents because they are busy with their own issues and they do not want their loved old folks to feel like they are waiting for their inheritance. People procrastinate and the most common problem is families feel like they should not butt into their folks’ business, and some seniors can be stubborn. If a couple owns a home as community property or as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, the surviving spouse can simply obtain the death certificate, file an affidavit of death and the county recorder will help the survivor change the title to the survivor’s name only. It is highly unlikely for both owners to die at the same time but when one goes first, it then becomes critical to have a living trust to protect the heirs. The best thing a family can do is contact a local lawyer and not be afraid to talk about death and all the “what if” scenarios before it is too late.