Q: My Dad died and his will says I get everything. Can I just go to the Register of Wills to get his bank accounts and car? Can I go to the courthouse to change the deed?
A: For better or worse, it’s not that easy. This isn’t like the MVA, where you go and change title. You have to fill out lots of paperwork for the Register of Wills, and for the house, an attorney needs to draw up a new deed. Your Dad’s stuff all belongs to his “estate,” and the only person who can sign deeds or get into his bank account, or sign the title to his car, is the “Personal Representative” of the estate, appointed by the Orphan’s Court. Even after you submit all the paperwork to open the estate, you have to get values on all assets – the house, the car, the bank accounts – as of his date of death and file that as an “Inventory” of the estate. You have to send “notice” to all his creditors, like credit card companies, and pay their claims. Then you have to account to the Court for what you started with – the Inventory – adjusted for gains or losses on sale if you sold anything, then add in income and receipts, and subtract all payments made from the estate, to arrive at what you get. That can be a real headache. Or, of course, you can Talk to Tim and we’ll handle the a lot of the process for you. Your call.
Q: I’ve been reading your articles about a “life estate deed.” If I have you make one up for me, can my kids or their creditors come in on me?
A: Not at all. The deed gives you “life estate,” the right to live in the property for the rest of your life; and the “power of sale,” the right to sell the property without the kids’ authorization or consent, and keep all the money even though your kids are on the deed, because they have no rights except the right to own the house when you die – and you’re not dead yet! You can also change the deed and take one of your kids off, so if one of your kids had creditor problems, you can just sign a new deed omitting them. You have all the power!
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