by Tina Seymour Demoran, Esq.

Don’t let your bad deeds haunt you.  Your bad real estate deeds, that is.

Two of my main areas of practice are probate and estate planning.  My main goal as an estate planner is to ensure that your heirs DON’T have to hire an attorney to receive the items you have bestowed upon them in your will.

I also present free onsite estate planning seminars to anyone who can find a free hour (or two) on my schedule–and in every seminar I make this statement:

“A will does NOT guarantee that your stuff will automatically transfer upon your death. A will is merely a contract between you and the judge that gives the court your wishes in writing as to how you want your assets distributed.”

“BUT YOU HAVE TO GO TO COURT FOR THAT WILL TO BE VALIDATED AND ENFORCED.”

“IF YOU HAVE TO GO TO COURT FOR PROBATE–MISSISSIPPI LAW REQUIRES THAT YOU HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT YOU.”

That translates into paying an attorney hundreds of dollars an hour to go to court, file numerous documents, go to several hearings for you, publish notices in a newspaper that makes that asset vulnerable to creditors’ claims, and opening up the assets to heirs you may not want having even a small portion of that real estate…and leaving the asset’s distribution up to a judge who usually only has a will, MS law, and witness testimony to rely on to decide who gets the asset.

Scary, right?

Sadly, one of the main reasons why I am hired to probate estates is simply to get land transferred from a deceased person’s name into the heirs’ names.

If your real estate deeds are not structured correctly, then your kids or your husband or wife (yes, even your husband or wife) will be hiring an attorney after your death.

Wait, what? Did I just hear you say “husband or wife?” But we own our property jointly.

Don’t get too comfortable just because the words “joint” are in your deeds.

Many people think the terms, “name and name, jointly as husband and wife,” give them automatic joint ownership with rights of survivorship to the property.

Nope.

If the language is not present that will guarantee an automatic transfer upon death, you both merely own a 50% share in the property.

When you die, your estate now owns your share.

I’ve caught numerous deeds this month that were written in just the last few years…and some written several decades ago…that did not include the correct language for the spouses to have a survivorship right to the land without court approval.

If we had not caught it and corrected it in time…the surviving spouse was looking at hiring an attorney after one of them died to transfer the ownership of the property to the other person….sometimes that can only be accomplished IF there were no other heirs who had a right to inherit…and IF those heirs all agreed and signed off on that new deed.

That alone is a haunting thought.

Isn’t it wiser to take the time to meet with an attorney NOW to ensure that your assets transfer correctly upon your death…than to leave it up to chance and hope for the best?

Again, my friends, a will alone is NOT enough.

You need an individualized estate plan created by an experienced attorney who actually knows the probate process and, even better, currently practices probate law, as well.

As I always say as I wrap up my seminars:

‘Tis far better to know for sure than to take a chance on what is usually your most valuable asset.

Don’t let your bad deeds haunt you or your heirs.

Take the take to review them with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions, we can be reached at (228)224-6781 or editor@thegazebogazette.com. Thank you for reading!