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“Do I really need that?”

There was a ghost at one of my recent closings. Not an actual ghost, but someone who had died 60 years ago was very present at the closing table. When he died, his wife inherited the house and later sold it.  This sounds fairly typical, correct? It was, except that wife had not filed any probate documents related to his death.

What does mean? Potentially, if left issue  unresolved, there could be a problem with the Title when the (current) buyer tries to sell the property. For that reason, I strongly recommended to my client that he should get Buyer’s Title Insurance.

Buyer often ask, “Do I really need that?” Don’t tell anyone, but before I started doing real estate closings, I may have thought no. Why would I want to spend even more money than I’m already spending on this house? Shouldn’t I be putting that money towards a new set of plush towels and paint?

My answer is very different now. Reviewing titles regularly, I realize how easily there can be a issue with a title; it doesn’t have to be big, something like a missing death certificate or an old lien, can either delay or stop a house from being sold or bought.

What is Title Insurance? (click on the link)

Is Title insurance worth the investment? Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes the risk obvious, like the friendly ghost in the story above; other times, it is not as easily resolved and significant expense can be involved.

The one-time expense for Title Insurance is usually minimal, especially considering the overall cost of buying a house. On an average house, the cost of a policy is equal to two or three hours of legal services. Without insurance, the cost of correcting or litigating a Title dispute could easily cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

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Putting the home in Homestead

As many of you probably know, I represent parties in transactions regarding residential properties. I love working with buyer and sellers, starting with Purchase and Sales, and through closing. I happily work with lenders and real estate agents to make sure that the deal not only happens, but that my client is properly protected.
As part of the closing process, I always offer to provide a Homestead for buyers. Most people do not know a lot about Declarations of Homestead, sometimes not even knowing if they have one on their current house; in order to help buyers better understand the benefits of having one, I always provide the information below.
It is never too late to file a Homestead, even if you have lived in your house for 20 years. If you are not sure if have one, I am happy to look it up for you.

WHAT IS HOMESTEAD?
Homestead protection is available for owner occupied, residential one to four family homes, condominium unit, operative apartments and for manufactured homes, which in each case serves as the homeowner’s principal residence. Co-owners of a home ‘share’ the exemption amount.

A homestead estate exempts a certain amount of the equity of a home from attachment, seizure, execution on judgment, levy, and sale for the unsecured debts of the owner of the home, except for the following:
• Federal, state, and local taxes, assessments, claims, and liens;
• Liens recorded prior to creation of the estate;
• Mortgages;
• Orders of the probate court for support;
• A levy or sale for ground rents (where the homeowner does not own the land); and
• An execution from a court to enforce a judgment based upon fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity.

Under the Act, the homeowner’s equity in the home is protected for up to one year after the sale of the home, and, if the home has suffered a casualty that results in the payment of insurance proceeds, then the insurance proceeds are protected for up to two years, in order to allow the homeowner to acquire a homestead in a new (or reconstructed) home.

AUTOMATIC HOMESTEAD: All homeowners are entitled to automatic homestead protection of up to $125,000 of the equity in their homes. You do not need to do anything to benefit of this protection.

DECLARED HOMESTEAD: By making a written declaration of homestead, recorded in the Registry of Deeds, a homeowner’s homestead protection is increased to $500,000.

Some other benefits of declaring a homestead include:
a. A non-owner spouse who lives with the owner has the benefit of the homestead (until terminated in writing);
b. A declared homestead cannot be subordinated to an unsecured debt;
c. If an unmarried owner declares a homestead and marries thereafter, the declaration will automatically benefit the owner’s spouse upon marriage; similarly, a divorce and/or remarriage will not affect the homestead of the spouse who remains in the home as his/ her principal residence.
d. A trustee of property held in trust can declare homestead for the beneficiaries of the trust who occupy the home as their principal residence;
e. Elderly (age 62 or older) and disabled persons who declare homestead are each entitled to separate exemption of up to $500,000, which is personal and not shared with any other co-owners of the home.

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Who should YOU vote for in 2016?

The sudden death of Antonin Scalia has renewed an important and often overlooked conversation in America about the process of replacing a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the debate over whether the current President of the United States (“POTUS”) or his successor will nominate the inheritor of Scalia’s seat has greatly overshadowed his accomplishments.

Regardless of whether you agreed with Scalia, he demanded respect. He displayed a quick whit and candor in his legal opinions. He challenged attorneys to answer difficult questions, even before they were done presenting their cases. He demonstrated an ability to build and maintain a close friendship with someone who was his polar opposite politically. Even as a member of the Supreme Court bar, I never had an opportunity to meet him; however, those who had the pleasure have told me that he made you feel instantly comfortable and important, even though he was one of the most intimidating figures in modern history.

It is likely that the current POTUS will be the one to nominate Scalia’s successor. Even if the current POTUS nominates the heir to the Scalia seat, there are three (3) spots which are likely to be open within the next few years due to the age of the current justices. Hopefully, who ever is nominated in the future focuses on process, not agenda; however, it is nearly impossible to eliminate political affiliation and thought process. Therefore, it is SO important to consider the power of POTUS nomination when you go to vote. In the meantime, please enjoy this article that Time magazine recently posted about the process of replacement:

How the Next Supreme Court Justice Will Be Chosen

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From the “REALLY?” File

Not everyone feels merry or bright during the holidays.For everyone who needs a laugh and those who just like to, I offer the following article which will, hopefully, make you smile: The Strangest 50 State Laws That Still Exist.

http://www.ijreview.com/2014/12/222618-50-state-laws/

My personal favorite is Georgia; what’s yours?

Happy Holidays!

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Giving Thanks!

2015 has been a landmark year of growth for my practice. As we end this month focused on giving thanks, I want to say  “Thank You” to some special people.

  • To my clients, past, present, and future:  Working together has been my pleasure. I hope that working together has helped you to move forward in your life in a positive way, whether it be as newly single, recently married, buying or selling your home, or protecting your assets for your family;
  • To my friends, family, and colleagues that have referred cases to me: I appreciate your trust and confidence in me;
  • To my colleagues who are opposing counsel: I enjoy a good sparing session, but especially when it is with someone who makes an argument with integrity;
  • To my colleagues who allow me to brainstorm with them: A solo practitioner without a sounding board would not be nearly as effective;
  • To my friends and colleagues in real estate (lenders, agents, everyone at my Title company,and other professionals): I am so excited to keeping building our relationship and providing amazing service to our clients;
  • To my friend, Erin Sweeney, for designing a new website for me. I can’t wait to launch it soon and for everyone to see her GORGEOUS work;
  • To the readers of this newsletter: I appreciate that you take the time to open and read what I’ve written. Your feedback is so helpful and keeps me motivated; and
  • To a good friend and colleague that I want to call out by name, but who would be mortified if I did: THANK YOU for your inspiration and support this year. From our first conversation at school to Box Seats to late phone calls and emails, your graciousness and knowledge is much appreciated.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!