Q: My spouse just died. I want to put my children on my house to protect it, so there’s someone there in case something happens to me. What do I need to do?
A: There are several ways to set up the title of your home so that it will pass to your children when you die without probate. We want to be careful that your house doesn’t become available to your children’s creditors, though, so we don’t just want to make your children joint owners. I suggest that we draft a “life estate deed with power of sale” so you have control of the property, with “remainder to your children,” so title passes to them when you die, without the complication, costs and delays of probate. It’s complex, but not complicated; we can make it simple and straightforward.
Q: I just got divorced. I want to put my children on my bank account, so there’s someone there in case something happens to me. What do I need to do?
A: It’s good to prepare. There are several ways to set up your bank accounts so that there’s someone available to help you if you need that during your life, and we also want to avoid probate. We want to be careful that your bank accounts don’t become available to your children’s creditors, though. I usually suggest making your children “paid on death” or “POD” beneficiaries of your bank accounts, and also giving them “power of attorney” or “POA” to write checks for you. This protects your money from their creditors, since your children can’t use your money until after you have passed. The POD designation also avoids probate. It’s simple, and it’s free!
Q: My spouse just got diagnosed with dementia. It’s still in the beginning stages. What do we need to do?
A: You need to make sure you have both financial and medical power of attorney in place, to avoid court-administered guardianship. You need to think about setting up a “living trust” to hold your assets, in case you die before your spouse, since your spouse won’t be able to manage the assets. You would manage your property as “trustee” of the trust. You need to name a backup agent under powers of attorney and successor trustee of the trust. If your spouse owns a business, you need to wind that down. All family assets and especially any assets in your spouse’s sole name need to be transferred to the trust. You need to be listed as POA on their retirement accounts, benefits, insurance and pension or veteran’s benefits. We can help de-stress your situation by being proactive!
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates
Elder Law | Real Estate | Business Planning