Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
My father died in Ft.Wayne, IN in September of 2006. He is survived by my mother, my older brother, and myself. My mother is now hospitalized in Atlanta with advanced Alzheimer's and my brother has her power of attorney. I need information on how to deal with two properties: my dad's business (a record shop that closed when he died) and my mom's residence where I maintain a "live-in" house sitter. The maintenance, taxes, and insurance are a financial drain on my resources. To make matters worse, we have been unable to locate pertinent documents such as the deeds to each property. How can we start to clean up this mess? Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXX , XX XXXXX
Hi; My goal is to provide you with great service - if you have any questions during our chat, please ask! I'll do my best to ensure your satisfaction! I am sorry to hear of your mother's declining health. The first issue that needs to be dealt with is the deeds. Generally the county recorder will have a deed on file. Did you do a title search?
If land ownership goes back several generations and was never properly recorded, here is a site where you can see the initial transfer from the government. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/
Otherwise, if it was more recent, as is the typical case, then the deed would be on record at the county recorder's. Some governments provide a search function on their website - it varies by county.
There are also online companies that will get you copies of a deed for a small price. For example, please see: https://www.knowx.com/indiana/indiana-property.jsp A title company will be able to conduct a title search so that all documents relating to those parcels are accounted for.
The party with the power of attorney can act in your mother's stead, but only to the extent as listed in the actual document. Generally the powers are quite broad, and will permit an agent to sell the principal's property. If your mother will be remaining in the hospital, then that would be something that is usually considered, as opposed to maintaining an empty residence.
If the powers listed are not broad, then an interested party would need to petition the court for either adult guardianship, or for conservatorship over your mother. Then they would need to petition the court for an order to sell this property. The judge will determine if it is in your mother's best interests, and if so, they will order the sale of the property, with the proceeds to be deposited in an account for your mother's benefit.
Please let me know if you need clarification on the above. Since your mother has assets, it would be a good idea to have a consultation with a personal attorney to go over her assets in detail, to ensure that everything is set up from an estate planning perspective. If she has a personal attorney, it is a good idea to meet with the attorney so the heirs are aware of where her important estate planning documents are located.
My mother cannot afford a personal attorney and both my dad and mom didn't believe in estate planning. Dad is dead (no will) and my mother cannot communicate.
I see. At least your mother had the foresight to execute a Power of attorney, as most people don't do that. Have you conducted a search in the county recorder's office for the deeds?
Since your dad did not have a will, his property would go via intestate succession to his heirs (wife and children). If your mother does not have a will, her property would also pass via intestate succession. If she did not re-marry, then it goes to the children.
But as far as the property itself goes, either the agent will need to sell it, if the POA provides this authority. Otherwise an interested party would need to petition the court.
http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title29/ar1/ch2.html (this is the statute that governs intestate succession).
No I haven't. I assumed this will be my next step. However, I have dealt with the local government (change of address for utilities, tax questions, etc. and I have always beens asked if I had my mom's POV. And that's when they would stop providing any help.
Here is an organization (second link) in Indiana that can possibly refer you to a pro bono organization if you want to pursue guardianship. The first link is to information such as what guardianships entail. http://www.arcind.org/index/iags/guardianship-and-alternatives.asp#19 http://www.arcind.org/index/iags/project-mission-and-goals.asp The property records are public record and anyone is entitled to look at them - so no special permission is needed for that.
And you will see below the process to effectuate a guardianship:
14. What Is The Process For Becoming A Guardian?
My brother once told me he had the authority to sell mom's house so I believe he has "broad" authority. Consequently, your advice is to find the deeds or copies and then have a title company do a search. Is this when we contact a local attorney?
Yes, you would contact an attorney at that point (or now, but you would be paying the attorney premium fees to locate the deed-which can be done easily without an attorney). Let me get you a link to the bar referral.
Did you have any other questions on the above?
Thank you for your help. And of course, as soon as I sign-off, I will have a dozen questions.
You can access this by copying and pasting the URL into your email. Also, the site sends emails to the end user,so you can access that link to come back to this page. I will respond as soon as I see any follow up queries! It's one cost per question, so you're good to go!
Are title searches expensive? Can you guestimate the number of hours a reputable estate attorney would bill if we get the deeds and do a title search before we see him/her?
Title searches vary, but generally a few hundred dollars. You can wait to do that until you find a buyer -that is a common procedure done when title is being transferred. If the POA authorizes the sale of real estate, the attorneys involvement can be minimal (ie review document to ensure selling property is permitted). If you are going for guardianship, it generally costs several thousand dollars. If there is property, some attorneys will defer payment until property is sold. But I would first contact that agency and see if they have any pro bono organizations they refer to.
My father's business must have had creditors. What is our legal obligation to contact them? Today is the seventh
When the business was closed down, generally that is when all debts and such are taken care of. The statute of limitations is 6 years for oral contracts; 10 years for written contracts. That would be a business law issue, though, as it would depend on the type of company he had (LLC, sole proprietor, etc) and I would not be qualified to answer that as I have very limited business law experience. But generally that is all addressed in the business contracts.
I think I hit the wrong buttom and I have lost all text except most recent. Is there a remedy?
Yes, but I don't have access (we are independent contractors). If you contact customer service, they will be able to help you. But first you may want to try accessing this from your email or refreshing the URL because the info is still here.
The text returned and I thank you for the information and instruction.