When a parent, spouse or loved one dies – what do you need to know or do about the house?

Death and Real Estate - Dealing with a Property after A Loved One DiesWhen a parent, spouse or loved one dies and he or she owned a home, there’s a lot for the survivors to do in addition to the very real and painful process of mourning. I have been through this with my own parents (and their house in Saratoga), a great aunt in Willow Glen, and many clients in San Jose, Los Gatos, Palo Alto, and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Quick summary of what to do regarding the home first and soon when a loved one dies:

  1. Engage the help of of an attorney and tax professional within the first 30 days or so. Sometimes there are deadlines or goal dates that will help the beneficiaries, and if people take too long to connect with these professionals, some opportunities may close.
  2. Some attorneys are also tax professionals, but most likely these will be different people.
  3. A professional valuation of the home will be needed, usually done by a licensed appraiser, but sometimes a real estate professional can do a market analysis that is acceptable. The home does not have to be empty or cleaned out to have this done.
  4. If you need the names of good tax and legal professionals, feel free to reach out to your real estate agent (or to me, if you are local). Most of us have worked with trust situations and can provide names. Or ask friends and family who’ve recently gone through the same situation and were happy with the people that they hired.
  5. You will need several copies of the certified death certificate. Discuss how many with your tax and legal professional. If you sell or transfer the home, the title company will need it and it will be recorded with the county.

Death, dying, & real estate: where to begin when a loved one dies?

In terms of settling the estate, it is wise to first speak with an attorney and tax professional about the property to find out what is required and advisable.

(more…)

Do Lots of Research Before Deciding to do a Short Sale on your Silicon Valley Home

Homeowners who are in financial trouble with their property sometimes wait too long to seek help, and then cannot mitigate the situation with a loan modification, a short sale or a deed in leiu of foreclosure. They wait so long and miss so many payments that significant harm is done.  The embarrassment, the sense of failure, the significant feelings of loss can keep home owners from reaching out for advice and guidance. This is happening on a big scale and is happening within my own close circle of loved ones too.

Recently a friend of mine, with whom I’ve done several transactions, informed me that she’d done a short sale with her home through a local attorney and hadn’t wanted to bother me with it, though she knew I’d have been willing to help.  (She was right: I would have.)

I was stunned on several counts, most of all that we hadn’t talked before she did it; I truly think it matters tremendously to do a good amount of information-gathering, and talking with trusted sources, before pulling the trigger on something big like this.  But very often, people become more private when under financial pressure. (Others are virtually in denial.)  This really just makes things worse since they may make huge decisions with insufficient information.
(more…)