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Deed - What's in a name?

My client’s grandmother passed away without a will. Therefore under New York law the client inherits the house and the investment property of her grandmother. That’s great except at the time of death the house was owned by the grandmother and her mother, the great grandmother.

The great grandmother had three children, one of whom predeceased and had twelve (12) children of her own. So my client who thought that she inherited the property free and clear is now possibly the owner with at least thirteen (13) other owners because of the way the deed was titled between the grandmother and the great grandmother. Is it confusing enough? Yes. The addition of few additional words in the deed could have saved this family from this unintended consequence.

Now we need to locate all the grandchildren or possibly great grandchildren as the case maybe and need consents from all those individuals to be able to sell this property. It is a title nightmare.

In the meantime, who do you think wants to pay for taxes on the property, make necessary repairs, heat the house, maintain the property? Who has the incentive to pay out of their own pocket for the upkeep of the house until this legal quagmire is resolved? It feels like this ship has no captain. It is a legal predicament that requires court intervention and poses a financial burden on the one who takes the necessary step forward to hold the reins.

There is a simple lesson in this, a review of your documents by a competent attorney at the beginning is more cost effective and avoids the emotional turmoil that this family will be subjected to at the back end. Call us to discuss how holding title to your assets can affect your estate plan and help avoid unnecessary delays for your family.

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