The Passing of the Chairman of the Board

As many of you know, my grandparents had lost everything last year in the Black Forest fire. At the end of last year, they came to me with concerns over having a will done since they lost all of their original documents in the fire & no one had copies. Cecilia and I worked on their new wills. My grandparents did not own a lot of assets so we never considered doing a trust. We never thought to look into their properties or even any of their accounts.  My grandfather passed away on July 6, 2014. After all of the dust had settled from the initial shock of his death & we got through his funeral things started coming to light.
The first thing that was discovered was a bank account with one of his daughters that has a balance of roughly $10,000. After the fire the account was set up for donations & for some reason my grandfather thought it would be a great idea to have this particular daughter on the account. This daughter does not get along with any of her brothers or sisters or any family for that matter. Now that grandpa is gone & she doesn’t talk to anyone else in the family, she gets to keep that money. We have all tried to reason with her & get the money to help pay for my grandmother’s care but she simply refuses. Sad to think that one of your own children can be so uncaring.
One of my uncles also lost his home in the fire & has recently started the rebuilding process. He & his wife were putting final touches on their home & it is weeks away from them moving in. My uncle received a call one afternoon from the SBA letting him know that they cannot approve his loan because the property is also in my grandfather’s name. He calls me in a panic. I explain to him that he needs to get me a copy of the deed. The deed has two options for wording: joint tenancy or tenants in common. If the deed states joint tenancy then everything would be fine. At that point we can file the death certificate & have my grandfather’s name removed. If the deed reads tenants in common we will have to open a probate to get his name taken off & then the property goes to my grandmother per the terms of the newest will. Of course with our luck the deed doesn’t say either of those options so it automatically defaults to tenants in common. Now we have to probate my grandfather’s estate over a piece of property that is the size of a bedroom that my uncle paid a couple hundred dollars for.
During our research for the probate case, we discovered that my grandparent’s property where they had lived for 60+ years no longer belongs to either of them. They had a will done previously & had signed a beneficiary deed in that process, deeding the property to three of their six children. They had changed their minds & wanted everything to go to all six kids equally per the newest will. However, no one knew about the beneficiary deed & the deed that was recorded overrides anything in the newest will. Now we have a piece of burnt property owned by three siblings who cannot stand to be in the same room with each other. Definitely not what my grandfather would have wanted.
I know as a parent you want to help & trust that your children will put aside differences in hard times. That sometimes isn’t the case. Before you run out & help your son or daughter buy a new home or agree to be on bank accounts or do anything financially linking you to someone other than your spouse please do some research & planning. A simple miswording in a deed can come back & cause some negative consequences. Not keeping your planning documents current & up to date can also cause headache & heartache after you are gone.

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