If you own, would like to own, have an interest in, or are disposing of an interest in real estate we can help. We assist in sales or purchases, leasing or renting, putting real estate into a trust or taking it out, releasing liens from estate taxes or Medicaid, protecting a home or income producing property from potential long-term care expenses, obtaining, releasing or advice about mortgages and reverse mortgages, land disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, probate issues involving real estate, or the many other issues that arise with real estate matters.
Real estate can be owned in many forms-most commonly individually, as joint property, as tenants in common, or in trust. How you take title to real estate in which form, or when and how you transfer out real estate interests, can have significant legal and financial (tax) consequences. We can assist in helping you decide how to hold title, how to transfer title, how to protect real estate against long-term care costs and other liabilities, and how to deal with tricky real estate issues.
What follows are some of the tools that may be involved in typical real estate issues we commonly deal with.
Purchases, Sales, Refinancing, Equity Loans
If you selling, buying, or dealing with a standard mortgage or home equity loan on your home or other real estate you need competent counsel. We can assist you from the listing agreement to the final settlement. We have particular experience in dealing with real estate transactions resulting from probate proceedings.
Declarations of Homestead
A Declaration of Homestead for your primary residence is a document recorded at the Registry of Deeds in the county where your primary residence is located which will provide protection to your home. Generally speaking, and subject to some conditions, homeowners cannot be evicted from their primary residence by creditors for debts arising after the filing of the Homestead (other than for home mortgages), and a portion of the equity interest in the primary residence (the value above any mortgages) is protected. Recent changes in the law have given an automatic $125,000 equity protection in the primary residence, but filing a Declaration Homestead can increase the equity protection substantially. Homesteads can now be filed for properties held in trust. We can assist in explaining what protection a Homestead gives and whether it would be right for you, and assist in putting one in place if it is.
A “Life Estate” on real estate is created by the owner or owners of the real estate deeding the property to one or more persons but retaining the right to live there the remainder of his, her or their lives. The deed can be to a person or to the trustee of a trust. The transfer is complete by recording the deed at the Registry of Deeds where the property is located. Once completed both the person(s) holding the life estate and the person(s) to whom the property was transferred have a legal interest in the property. Upon the death of the person(s) holding the life estate interest, the person or persons to whom the property was transferred will automatically own the entire interest in the property subject to any liens or encumbrances on the property. This is a way to avoid the Probate Process and if done before the look-back period for someone applying for long-term care MassHealth may protect the home. But a life estate is not without some disadvantages that we will explore with you.
Medicaid Trusts, also referred to as Irrevocable Income Only Trusts, are irrevocable trusts set up for asset protection, specifically real estate. These trusts can hold any assets, and real estate is the most common. Medicaid does not count the assets in this type of trust as long as the trust is set up correctly, and the property was transferred into the trust more than five years before the application was filed. These trusts are very complicated and need to be approached, created and funded very carefully.
A realty trust acts as titleholder to real estate. A realty trust may be set up for privacy, probate avoidance, estate tax planning, ease of management, or other reasons.
Reverse mortgages are loans on your primary residence that pay you instead of you paying the mortgage company. Equity from your home is used as a loan so that you can you the cash from the equity to pay bills, or spend on your needs. You don’t have to pay the loan back as long as you continue to live in the home, but it has to get paid back when you leave or die. You can even buy a home using a reverse mortgage. These can be valuable tools. We can assist you in deciding if one might be right for you and in representing you as you go through the process of getting the loan.
If you don’t see something you have a question about regarding real estate, or for more information on real estate issues and planning, please contact us.