What if the Mobilehome Owner Dies Without a Will and No one Comes Forward on Behalf of the Deceased Homeowner?

If the homeowner dies without a will, then as the community owner, the situation is not any different than that described above. You might be presented with a “Small Estates Affidavit”. In the absence of that, a representative of the estate still needs to be appointed. The process is essentially the same as that described above in that a petition is filed with the court by the person who seeks appointment as the legal representative. And if that person is approved by the court, he or she will be issued “Letters of Administration” as discussed previously.

In the situation where you have actual knowledge that the resident has died, but no one has come forward on that person’s behalf, then complicated issues of the proper service of notices necessary under the MRL arise. The proper steps or action to take in such situation will depend on the particular factual circumstances involved. As a result, it is recommended that you specifically consult with your legal counsel about the proper course of conduct in this situation, so you as the owner, can protect yourself from potential liability.

The death of a resident can present many potential “traps” for the mobilehome community owner or manager and it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel to determine the proper steps to take so you can avoid unnecessary liability.

After all, particularly when it comes to legal expense, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

This Mobilehome Blog Series was co-written by Los Angeles Attorney Doug Schreiber and San Diego Attorney Tamara Cross

To go back to the beginning of the blog series…
Death of a Resident in Your Mobilehome Community: What You Need to Know

For more information on mobilehome community law, please contact our Mobilehome Park Attorney in Los Angeles today.

What Should You (as the Mobilehome Community Owner) Request From an Heir to Protect Yourself?

As mentioned above, you might be presented with a Small Estates Affidavit which would contain certain declarations under oath about:

1. The death of the resident
2. The legal heirs
3. The value of the estate
4. Other items required by the probate code section that authorizes its use

However, if an heir has been appointed as a representative of the estate by the court, he or she will receive a document, issued by the court, described above as “Letters of Administration”. That document will, among other things, contain the signature of a judge and a stamp from the court showing it has been issued and filed. Most importantly, it will identify the individual(s) who have been given the authority by the court to act on behalf of the estate, and the powers granted to that individual.

Then, and only then, can you rest assured that you are now dealing with the proper person(s) who have the authority to act on behalf of the estate.

Continue reading …
What if the Mobilehome Owner Dies Without a Will and No one Comes Forward on Behalf of the Deceased Homeowner?

Who Should You (as the Mobilehome Community Owner) Deal With Regarding the Decedent’s Estate?

While there are an innumerable number of ways to die, when someone dies, it is either with a will (“testate”) or without a will (“intestate”). In the first instance, the dearly departed has executed a writing which identifies someone whom they want to manage their affairs upon death and what they want to happen with their property. In the latter, they have left that up to the laws of the state they are in.

From your perspective as the mobilehome community owner, the obligation to establish the death of the resident is that of the person(s) seeking to take some action regarding the mobilehome or its contents. This person(s) should be able to present you with a certified copy of a death certificate which will verify the identity and death of the resident. Depending on the county, this certificate will contain an official stamp, typically in purple ink, reflecting that it is an official record of that county.

To determine if a mobilehome is owned in joint tenancy, you can look at the Housing and Community Development (HCD) issued title of the mobilehome and it should indicate that the owners are “joint tenants.” If title is held in joint tenancy, then the verification of the resident’s death (and in some situations an accompanying “Affidavit of Death of Joint Tenant”), as well as confirming the identity of the joint tenant should be enough to establish that the individual has authority to take control over the mobilehome.

However, in the case of a supposed heir or personal representative, your inquiry does not stop upon mere verification of death. Once you have verified or established that the resident is dead, the question for you as the owner, regardless of whether the person has died with or without a will, is does that individual have authority to act or not. This would generally require an official court document, typically known as “Letters of Administration”, depending on the particular county. A possible exception to this, is something frequently referred to as a “Small Estates Affidavit”. This document, which is executed under oath, can be used in certain situations (which are specified in the probate code) and can allow for the release of personal property of the deceased pursuant to the statements in that declaration. There are specific requirements with regard to such affidavits, so it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel if you are presented with such a document.

Furthermore, the HCD allows an heir, after 40-days from the death of the resident, to fill out and file a form called “Certificate for Transfer Without Probate”. With this form, the heir signs an affidavit under oath, and if all requirements are met, the HCD will transfer title of the mobilehome into the individual’s name. Documentation reflecting that the HCD has transferred (or is transferring) title of the mobilehome to the heir/personal representation should also be suffi cient to prove authority to act.

In the absence of documents showing title has been transferred to the heir, joint tenant or personal representative, only the legally appointed representative of the estate with specific court ordered powers has the authority to act on behalf of the deceased. This includes the authority to sell the mobilehome or to enter the home and remove its contents.

Depending on the location of your community or where the resident died, the process whereby someone becomes appointed as the representative of the decedent’s estate can take several months. During that time, you as the community owner or manager, need to proceed cautiously:

1. DO NOT be persuaded into allowing family members access to the mobilehome if you have a key

2. DO NOT enter the mobilehome at their request to obtain clothing or documents

3. DO NOT sign contracts with heirs who have not presented proper documentation that they in fact have the legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased resident.

Continue reading …
What Should You (as the Mobilehome Community Owner) Request From an Heir to Protect Yourself?

Death of a Resident in Your Mobilehome Community: What You Need to Know

It is often said that life is full of uncertainties, which rings particularly true in today’s world. Will the stock market rise or fall? Will real estate continue its downward trend? Will gas prices continue to skyrocket? When will Charlie Sheen suffer another “meltdown”?

On the other hand, you can find certainty in death and taxes. This article will give you an overview of which steps you, as owner or manager of a mobilehome community, should take upon the death of a homeowner in your community.

In a traditional landlord/tenant relationship, a month-to-month lease terminates upon the death of the tenant. In the mobilehome community, however, a resident’s death does not terminate the responsibility to pay the rent and utilities if the mobilehome remains on the space.

The Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL) provides limited rights to the decedent’s heirs, joint tenants or personal representative. Specifically, the MRL allows a homeowner’s heir, joint tenant or personal representative of the decedent’s estate, who gains ownership of a mobilehome in a mobilehome community as a result of the homeowner’s death, to sell the mobilehome in place in the community to an approved purchaser. This right, however, is conditioned on the heir, joint tenant or personal representative satisfying all of the deceased homeowner’s obligations under the lease. These obligations include satisfying the rent, utilities and maintenance obligations since the death of the homeowner and that continue to accrue until the date the mobilehome is sold. (Civil Code Section 798.78(a).)

One problem with this provision of the MRL that is of concern to you as a community owner, is that it assumes the person has a particular status (heir, joint tenant or personal representative). So, the question(s) for you as the community manager or owner are:

  1. How do you know who is legally entitled to access and potentially sell the deceased homeowner’s mobilehome?
  2. How do you ensure that a person claiming to have authority to act for the deceased homeowner is the legal representative of the decedent’s estate?

Continue reading …
Who Should You (as the Mobilehome Community Owner) Deal With Regarding the Decedent’s Estate?

Tax-Free Gifts and the Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT) : Reducing the Estate Tax

Tax-Free Gifts

This is easy and it doesn’t cost anything. Each year, you can give up to $12,000 ($24,000 if married) to as many people as you wish. So if you give $12,000 to each of your two children and five grandchildren, you will reduce your estate by $84,000 (7 x $12,000) a year – $168,000 if your spouse joins you. (This amount is now tied to inflation and may increase every few years.)

If you give more than this, the excess will be considered a taxable gift and will be applied to your $1 million gift tax exemption. Charitable gifts are unlimited. So are gifts for tuition and medical expenses if you give directly to the institution.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)

An easy way to remove life insurance from your estate is to make an ILIT the owner of the policies. As long as you live three years after the transfer of an existing policy, the death benefits will not be included in your estate.

Usually the ILIT is also beneficiary of the policy, giving you the option of keeping the proceeds in the trust for years, with periodic distributions to your spouse, children and grandchildren. Proceeds kept in the trust are protected from irresponsible spending and creditors, even ex-spouses.

For more information on-free gifts, irrevocable life insurance trusts and reducing your estate tax, please contact our experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Woodland Hills.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Removing Assets from your Estate to Reduce the Estate Tax

Removing assets from your estate is a great way to reduce estate taxes before you die.

So, spend some and enjoy it!

Also, you probably know whom you want to have your assets after you die. If you can afford it, why not give them some assets now and save estate taxes? It can be very satisfying to see the results of your gifts– something you can’t do if you keep everything until you die. Appreciating assets are usually best to give, because the asset and future appreciation will be out of your estate.

Assets you give away keep your cost basis (what you paid), so the recipients may have to pay capital gains tax when they sell. But the top capital gains rate is only 15% (assets held at least 12 months). That’s a lot less than estate taxes (45-46%) if you keep the assets until you die.

Some of the most commonly-used strategies to remove assets from estates are explained below. Note that these are all irrevocable, so you can’t change your mind later.

  1. Tax-Free Gifts
  2. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)
  3. Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)
  4. Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT) and Grantor Retained Unitrust (GRUT)
  5. Family Limited Partnership (FLP) and Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  6. Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)
  7. Charitable Lead Trust (CLT)
  8. Buying Life Insurance

Detailed explanations of each of these strategies for removing assets from your estate will be explained in the upcoming blog entries.  For questions on reducing your estate tax, please contact our experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Woodland Hills.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.