Did You Inherit a Property? What Now?
By · February 21, 2013
I just spoke with a client recently who is preparing her mother's home to sell in a few weeks. Her mother had passed away last year. I have been in contact with both her and her sister since way before Thanksgiving. They had decided that it would be nice to have the whole family over for Thanksgiving, just one more time in Mom's home before cleaning it out and selling it. She told me they had a very nice holiday and felt Mom was with them one last time at dinner with all of her favorite china and the the furniture that was in the house. What a nice idea.
In talking with her, she mentioned that she had some paperwork for me. You see, she was the sole successor trustee of her mother's estate. The sister, while one of the heirs, did not have any signing power I was told last year. However, she was very much involved in the distribution of items in the estate as well as the cleaning out of the house. When I asked what type of paperwork she had for me, she said the attorney put the property in the both sister's names.
Once I saw the paperwork, it was actually "Affidavit of Death of Trustee" but it stated two co-successor trustees. I was a bit confused as this document could have been filed through the escrow, saving the family that $500 it cost to prepare and file this document. It is also my understanding that you can't change the terms of a trust after the original trustees pass away, so don't know why it shows two successor trustees. There may have been some important reasons why it was was done this way and I would always make sure that heirs follow their attorney's advice, but I truly don't understand when the property is going to be sold in a timely manner.
I asked my client why the attorney did this now? She had no idea. She said the attorney was a friend of her sister's and was giving them a discount of $500 to put it into their names. $500 - I would be very interested as to why this attorney thought it important to prepare this document now. There could be a very good reason of which I am not aware.
So, if you find yourself as the successor trustee of an trust, be sure to ask lots of questions. One of the reasons for a trust is so that everything that the original trustee wants is handled and usually no attorney is needed in most cases. So always ask questions - the first one being "Why are we doing this?"
As I said, there could be a very good explanation - I just don't know what it is. And the attorney may think it is the right thing to do and it may be. Just Ask!