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Letters You Are Glad You Did Not Have To Write

We Get Letters… We Get Lots And Lots Of Letters

(Note: Not Edited For Spelling Or Punctuation. Not Legal Advice!)

LETTER #1

Deed with joint tenancy doesn’t mention right of survivorship

My father purchased land with seller to buyer financing. Because my dad was a single unmarried man and it was seller financing, the seller asked my dad to put someone as a joint owner on the deed (to keep making the payments in the event my dad passed). My dad put my oldest sister as a joint tenant/owner as he was advised at the title company. I don’t think he fully understood. My sister never made one single payment I have all checks to prove. She didn’t even know she was a joint owner. My dad mentioned to mother, friends and to siblings me many times my sister wasn’t the real owner it was just for security bc the seller required security of receiving continuing payments.

My father sadly passed, and now my sister doesn’t want to change title practically keep the land to herself. The document doesn’t specify right of survivorship just say joint tenant can that help? Everyone knows my dads true intent we were all children from the same mother he loved us all the same. I feel he didn’t know what joint tenancy was and just signed. I am really worried bc my sister is taking over the property and not allowing entrance.

What can I use as defenses, thanks.

The Answer Is: “You Are Screwed. And Your Little Dog, Too!”
A Deed Is A Deed Is A Deed

For a number of years, I tended bar. Occasionally, a bar fight would erupt. Very exciting. My fellow barkeep Matt loved when that happened. He would vault the bar grinning, not waiting for assistance, eager to sort things out. Not me. I figured that was a job for the football player-bouncers. A bar fight is an ambiguous, fluid situation. Resolution is required. Application of force will be necessary. And litigation is a bar fight. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

But what if there is no fight? What if the facts are clear? Bouncers do not go looking for trouble. And they do not get involved in every disagreement. How does that apply here?

Michigan courts are extremely unwilling to upset the applecart. Especially when that applecart consists of a valid deed. There are plenty of dubious situations that folks can fight about. Then the courts and the judicial system can roll up their sleeves, get into the fight, start cracking heads.

Our letter writer’s case is not a bar fight free-for-all that needs sorting out. This is a Mike Tyson, one shot to the head, KO, 30 seconds, hope-you-did-not-blink-because-the-main-event-is-over type of thing.

Your father signed the deed. He was competent. He did not have a gun to his head.

Q: Was it a good idea or a bad idea?
A: Nobody cares.

Q: Is sister a generous angel or jealous limb of Satan?
A: Irrelevant.

Q: Did dad wish he had never signed?
A: Why are we still talking about this? Train left the station. Elvis left the building. Fat lady sang. Somebody already stuck a fork in it. It is done.

Folks Do The Darnedest Things

When a good person acts with the best intentions but brings about the worst results – that is tragic. Terrible. In Heaven above, the angels weep. Ever watch a movie, yelling at the screen, “Don’t open the door!” “Stay out of the basement!” “Run away!”? Reading this letter is like that. For me. Danger, danger! But, of course, it is too late. For them.

Why in the world did dad sign the deed?

“Because my dad was a single unmarried man and it was seller financing , the seller asked my dad to put someone as a joint owner on the deed (to keep making the payments in the event my dad passed).”

Dad was motivated to do the right thing. Seller gave dad plausible reasons. But. The stated “reasons” make absolutely no sense at all. Not a single part is accurate or reasonable. Sure, it is true that folks do this sort of thing all the time. On the advice of friends, neighbors, and Internet Experts. You might think these advisers would know better. But they do not.

Spoken Words Worth The Paper They Are Written On

“My dad mentioned to mother , friends and to siblings me many times my sister wasnt the real owner it was just for security bc the seller required security of receiving continuing payments.”

Sometimes motivations matter. Once in a while, verbal statements are relevant. But not usually. And not when we have a written deed that clearly creates ownership rights. Circuit courts, title companies, buyers… none of them care what you thought you were doing. Or why you were doing it.

Dad made sister joint owner by legal, valid, written, notarized, recorded and unchallenged deed. His motivations and understandings were incorrect. But that does not matter.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

“Everyone knows my dads true intent we were all children from the same mother he loved us all the same. I feel he didnt know what joint tenancy was and just signed. I am really worried bc my sister is taking over the property and not allowing entrance.”

Hatfields & McCoys. Montagues & Capulets. Celtics & Lakers. Laimbeer & Bird. U of M & Ohio State. Historic feuds. This is how they get started… What chance does this family have to enjoy the peace and prosperity dad intended? Experience suggests that sister will treat the property as her own. She will be correct, legally. Cousins hating each other. Poison of resentment and ill-will seeping down the generations. Do not let this happen to you. Or your family.

Dad could have provided for the family. Avoided strife. Lawyers do come in handy, sometimes!


LETTER #2

How can I withdraw funds from my husbands bank account if I am not on his account?

Husband is a stroke patient in a nursing home. Medicaid covers all expenses. He has money from social security in his bank account that I can use to send to him for personal needs. I have all account numbers, ss number, etc but no pin number.

Powers Of Attorney: Faster Than A Speeding Bullet… More Powerful Than A Locomotive…Able to Change The Course Of Mighty Rivers, Bend Steel In Your Bare Hands?

You don’t have to be Superman to get the power to make a major difference in your loved one’s life. If your husband is still mentally alert, even though he may not be physically capable, he can give you the authority you need to take care of his business.

Powers of attorney are not all the same. They can differ radically in the way they operate and in your ability to get the job done. Be sure that the lawyer drawing up the power of attorney knows your goals. Of course, that is nice to say, but how to get it done in the real world. The answer is that most powers of attorney are intended only to allow you to pay the person’s bills. And pay. And pay. And keep on paying until the money is all gone. Which results in nursing home poverty. Powers of attorney can be drafted to save the family resources. Make sure that your attorney knows that this is your intention.

Here Comes The Judge!

If your spouse or loved one is not mentally competent, you have a date with probate court. The judge will decide (by clear and convincing evidence) whether you should have authority over your loved one. Guardianship is all about the person’s health and day-to-day living. Guardianship includes the right to make basic, routine money decisions. Conservatorship is all about the money.

Both forms of living probate involve special rules, court supervision, annual reporting and a limit on just what you are able to do with your loved one’s resources. Avoiding probate while you are alive should be, but usually is not, a laser focus of your estate planning.

Social Security…

The Social Security Administration does not care about your power of attorney. And they do not care about your guardianship or conservatorship either. Social Security operates across the globe and cannot be bothered to figure out the ins-and-outs of every judicial and legal system. It would be impossible.

What Social Security has done is create its own “brand” of guardianship. Your disabled loved one gets Social Security. Your guardianship and power of attorney are useless. Now you have to jump through the Social Security hoops and become Representative Payee. Now you can manage the social security.

Easy, huh?

You Choose!

There is nothing inevitable about nursing home poverty. Peace of mind and security are waiting for you. Right now. It is a choice. Despite what “everybody else” says. Despite their attempts to disguise the elephants in the room. For over thirty years, people have told me, “I’ve never heard of this before!” “If this is real, why doesn’t everyone do it?” “My lawyer/financial advisor/brother-in-law/accountant/tax person/banker/best friend/fill-in-the-blank never said anything like this…”

Applying for benefits does not mean Nursing Home Poverty or silly Spend Down. Learn how to preserve your loved one’s lifesavings, business, cottage, life insurance. Thousands of middle-class families have learned and use these techniques. Why not yours?

Got Questions? Get Answers!

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