Who Can Sell a House After a Death in Colorado?

Filed Under (Probate) on 19-08-2014

Sometimes a family wants or needs to sell a house after an owner passes away.  People are often confused about who has the legal right to do so, particularly if there is disagreement among the family members about whether or not the property should be sold and what will happen to the proceeds.

The first question that must be answered is who is the owner of the property?  The answer is sometimes not as simple as it might seem.  The owner is the person (or the people, if more than one owner) whose name is on the deed recorded when the house was purchased, or who received an interest in the property later by a subsequent deed.  How might this happen?  Typically, it is a result of an earlier death, a divorce, or transfers to family members.

To find a definitive answer to this question, someone needs to get copies of recorded deeds going back to the time the deceased person acquired the property.  In Colorado this must be done by visiting the clerk and recorder’s office in the county where the property is located, or by requesting a title report from a title insurance company.  Some states post real estate deeds online, but Colorado does not.  Title companies charge a small fee for their reports.

If there are one or more surviving joint tenants shown on the deed records, the survivor(s) can list and sell the house.  What is a surviving joint tenant?  It is a person whose name appears on a deed that identifies them as a joint tenant or states that they received their interest “in joint tenancy” or “as joint tenant” or similar language.  If the deed just names two or more people as owners, without any mention of joint tenancy, the owners are deemed by law to be “tenants-in-common” who each own an undivided part of the property.  One tenant-in-common cannot sell the entire property without participation of the others.

If there are no surviving joint tenants, if the deceased person was the sole owner, or if he or she was a tenant-in-common with others, someone will need to apply to the court to appoint a personal representative to have authority to sell the property.  If the court approves, it will issue Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration to the personal representative.  He or she will then have the legal authority to list the house for sale and transfer it to a buyer, although any other tenant in common will need to consent.  The money received from the sale will then need to be distributed by the personal representative to the persons identified in a will or to the heirs under the law, if there is no will.

Simple example:  John T. Smith and Mary A. Smith own their home as joint tenants.  John dies.  Mary can sell the house by herself using a death certificate and name affidavit at closing.   She can sign a real estate listing agreement, deed and all other closing documents.  She gets all the money from the sale.

More complicated example:  Mary Smith, a widow, did not sell the house after her husband’s death and owns it at her death.  She has four adult children who get along well.  She has a will naming oldest child as personal representative.  Oldest child has to file some documents with the court in the county where Mary lived.  He then receives Letters Testamentary from the court.  He can now sign listing agreement, Personal Representative Deed and all closing documents.  He’ll need to record his Letters Testamentary with the deed at closing.  The money from the sale will be distributed according to the will.

Even more complicated example:   Same situation as above, but Mary did not have a will and her children don’t get along.  No one can sign a listing agreement, deed and closing documents until the court appoints a personal representative.  The children will either need to all agree as to who should be appointed personal representative or the court will have to decide who it should be.  It might be one of the children or it might be a bank or professional personal representative.  This could all take a long time and cost a lot of money.  Even if a buyer makes an excellent offer, no one has authority to sell the house until a personal representative is appointed by the court.  After a sale, the money must be used to pay estate bills with the remainder divided equally among the four children.

For help dealing with the legal, financial, and social aspects of life in the aftermath of a spouse’s death, check out “Life After Death: A Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses” by Marilyn McWilliams.

What is Medicare? What is Medicaid?

Filed Under (Probate) on 12-12-2013

People are often confused by the similarity of the names of these two government programs.  Both Medicare and Medicaid are Government programs that pay hospital, doctor and other provider costs on behalf of qualified individuals.  Beyond that general similarity, however, they are fundamentally different.

Medicare is a federal program that provides medical and hospital insurance to people who are 65 years of age and older. Eligibility is based on an individual’s work history or the work history of a spouse or deceased spouse. Some disabled people younger than 65 may also be eligible for Medicare. Income and asset ownership are irrelevant in qualifying for Medicare.

Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that requires needs-based qualification based on low income and very few assets. Generally, in Colorado people become eligible for Medicaid only if they are also eligible for other needs-based welfare programs. People over age 65 may also be eligible for Medicaid payment if their income and assets fall below the required levels. For eligible people under age 65 who are too young for Medicare, Medicaid can provide payment for medical treatment from physicians and hospitals. Continue reading “What is Medicare? What is Medicaid?” »

Bradford Publishing Launches Colorado-Only Attorney Directory

Filed Under (Bradford Publishing News & Updates, Business, Child Support, Custody and Visitation, Colorado Deeds, Divorce and Legal Separation, Domestic Partnership, Employment Law, Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant, Mechanics Liens, Medical Marijuana, Probate, Real Estate, Wills and Estates) on 08-11-2013

We’re excited to announce our new Colorado Attorney Directory! On November 1st we launched an online directory to link Colorado consumers with Colorado attorneys. Bradford has offered information, products and services for Colorado attorneys, businesses and consumers for more than 100 years.  With changing technology, most of our products and services have moved online to our website.  Now, more than 12,000 people visit our website each month in search of legal resources.

Bradford provides lots of self-help solutions for you to complete a legal procedure on your own, but sometimes it’s not enough and contacting a legal expert is necessary. Now we can connect you to attorneys practicing in your local Colorado community. Deciding whether to hire an attorney is a big decision.  The bottom line is knowing if you’re capable and willing to take on a particular legal task yourself. Sometimes you don’t realize immediately that the task is beyond your capabilities.

The new Colorado-only Attorney Directory can help you find the right attorney. Laws vary by state so it’s important to follow Colorado law. We make sure the attorneys listed are lawyers in good standing with the Colorado Supreme Court. They also have completed profiles on the site, so their expertise and experience is clear and allows you to know as much as possible about the lawyer’s practice before picking up the phone. Our goal is to provide easy access to Colorado attorneys who can help you find legal solutions.

Check out our new Colorado Attorney Directory and let us know what you think!


How to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits

Filed Under (Probate) on 12-09-2013

If your loved one has passed away and you’re eligible, you should promptly apply for Social Security survivors benefits. Some programs start payment from the date of application rather than the date of death. You can apply by telephone (800-772-1213 from 7 am to 7 pm. Monday through Friday) or at any Social Security office. Even if you want or need to apply in person, start with a phone call so you can make an appointment and familiarize yourself with the information you will need to provide.

You will need: Continue reading “How to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits” »

Filing Claims for Survivors Benefits

Filed Under (Probate) on 21-06-2013

Social Security is a federal program that provides benefits to many—but not all—surviving spouses and some dependent children under several different programs. Entitlement to Social Security benefits is earned through work and payment of Social Security taxes. As a surviving spouse, you may be eligible for benefits as a result of your spouse’s work history and you will retain your own eligibility based on your work history.

Several groups of surviving family members may be eligible for benefits, including the following:

•    Surviving spouses of either gender are eligible for full benefits at age 65 or older (for widowed persons born before 1940) or reduced benefits as early as age 60 (or age 50 if the widowed person is disabled under the Social Security definition of disability), so-called “widow(er)s rights.”

•    Surviving spouses of either gender of any age if they are caring for at least one child of the decedent who is eligible for child’s benefits and is age 16 or younger or who is disabled, so-called “father’s or mother’s” benefits.

•    Unmarried children under 18 (or up to 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school) can receive benefits, “child’s benefits.” Children of a decedent of any age who are disabled and became disabled before age 22 are also eligible.

•    Dependent parents of a decedent who are at least 62 and for whom the decedent was providing at least half of their support are also eligible.

•    There is also a one-time, lump-sum death benefit of $255 that can be made only to surviving spouses and minor children under certain circumstances. There are certain work history requirements for eligibility for this benefit.

To learn more about Social Security benefits eligibility, check out “Life After Death: A Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses” by Marilyn W. McWilliams.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?

Filed Under (Business, Colorado Deeds, Divorce and Legal Separation, Eviction, Leases and Landlord Tenant, Mechanics Liens, Power of Attorney, Probate, Real Estate, Small Claims, Starting a Business, Wills and Estates) on 23-05-2013

The decision to hire an attorney depends upon assessing the situation — and then being honest with yourself about your ability to handle the matter on your own.

First, always consult an attorney for:

•    Criminal charges
•    If you are sued
•    Bankruptcy
•    Employment issues (whether you are a business or an employee)
•    Personal injuries
•    Entering a franchise agreement
•    Selling a business, or bringing new owners into a business.

Individuals may effectively handle family law matters, business transactions, estate planning, and tax issues. However, one has to consider the costs of time and expertise when deciding to act without an attorney.

Advantages of handling a legal issue yourself:
•    There are Court-approved forms and books to help you.
•    You can move quickly, not waiting for an attorney to get to your matter.
•    You save money by not hiring an attorney.

Disadvantages of handling a legal issue yourself: Continue reading “Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legal Issue?” »

Do You Need a Financial Advisor? Understanding Financial Issues After Your Spouse Dies

Filed Under (Probate) on 18-04-2013

In many marriages, one spouse takes primary responsibility for financial decisions. It is also quite common for one spouse to take care of some financial matters and for the other spouse to take care of different ones.

If you, now a surviving spouse, were not ever interested in finances during the marriage or were not the spouse who made many financial decisions, you may feel lost without your spouse’s guidance. In all honesty, you still may not be interested in learning very much about finances; although some surviving spouses do develop an interest and desire to learn once they realize how important finances are to their future quality of life. Even if you are the spouse who made the financial decisions, you may not be in a good emotional state to make wise decisions, at least for a while. A financial advisor can help. He or she can manage everything for you, teach you or just help out until you’re ready to take over again.

Before hiring financial expertise, it is always a good idea to interview several different financial advisors and learn as much about them and how they work as you can. If friends are recommending advisors, ask them in-depth questions about how they met the advisor, how long they have been working with him or her, the kind of services provided, and the actual results the advisor has achieved for them. No ethical financial advisor will guarantee you any particular return on your money. If someone is making promises that sound too good to be true, they probably are.

No matter what kind of advisor you ultimately choose, you should be given written information from the individual or institution on the following topics:

•    The scope of services offered.

•    The minimum account size the advisor will work with.

•    Exactly how the advisor is compensated for services (flat fees, hourly fees, percentage of assets under management, commissions from sales of financial products), and what services are covered by the fee.

•    Whether the fees are negotiable (they often are).

•    How financial decisions will be made: whether the advisor (1) will have full discretion, (2) will need to consult with you on every decision, or (3) will have authority over some decisions but not others.

•    How the advisor will communicate with you (financial statements, periodic meetings, phone calls at will, etc.).

•    The educational and professional credentials the advisor has earned, and how much experience the advisor has earned.

•    The flexibility of the planning. Be aware of how “locked up” your assets will be in case you need cash quickly at some time in the future.

•    Who will have custody of your account and who will have access to the assets (this is important for protection against financial fraud).

For a complete list and more information regarding finding a financial advisor, check out “Life After Death: A Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses”, by Marilyn W. McWilliams

3 Ways to Probate an Estate in Colorado

Filed Under (Probate) on 28-02-2013

Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring the assets of someone who has died to those persons who are entitled to the assets next. Intimidating? Yes, it can be. But, often it is just a matter of following some standard procedures and filing certain required forms.  There are three ways to probate an estate in Colorado.  The value and circumstances of the estate determine which procedure is required. 

1.    Small Estates. Regardless of whether there is, or is not a will, if the value of all property—after any encumbrances and liens are deducted—is less than $60,000 and there is no real estate in the name of the deceased, an estate may qualify as a small estate. If an estate qualifies as a small estate, no probate is required, and the property can be transferred by way of “Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit.” This procedure requires an heir to swear that he or she is entitled to some or all of the property and will distribute any other property to the entitled heirs or creditors. Continue reading “3 Ways to Probate an Estate in Colorado” »

Do You Need an Attorney? Understanding Legal Issues After Your Spouse Dies

Filed Under (Probate) on 27-11-2012

In most cases, after death, the surviving spouse becomes responsible for administering the deceased’s estate.  As a result, you may wonder if you need a lawyer’s help.

Usually you will benefit from at least a one-session consultation with an experienced estate attorney.

You probably don’t need much legal assistance if your spouse has few assets with little financial value and they are owned in joint tenancy with you. Or, you are the named beneficiary and your spouse has little or no debt or your spouse does not leave minor children or have adult children from another marriage.

On the other hand, if you have any complications, good attorneys can spot certain issues – of which few people are aware – that can make a big difference in your life and future.  An attorney can also, potentially, save you and your family a lot of money. Here are some ways an attorney can help: Continue reading “Do You Need an Attorney? Understanding Legal Issues After Your Spouse Dies” »

Funeral Planning: When to Hold a Memorial or Funeral

Filed Under (Probate) on 16-10-2012

Our culture does not encourage speaking of death, and you may now find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do, when to do it, or how to carry it out. While planning a funeral is like planning any other large ceremony or religious event, it is clouded with strong emotions and, sometimes, shock. If you feel too overwhelmed, ask for help from your children, friends and clergy.  Here are some general thoughts on the reason for funerals and the elements of them.

Why hold a funeral? Continue reading “Funeral Planning: When to Hold a Memorial or Funeral” »