The latest numbers are in, and they are not good for potential heirs in Massachusetts.
According to a June 2016 Google Consumer Survey, less than 29 percent of Americans have up-to-date wills. The rest either have no will at all (63 percent) or have one that is so outdated that it is basically useless (9 percent). Furthermore, the percentage of people with no will has gone up about 10 percent in the last 10 years. And, the percentage of people without an up-to-date will were not in the majority in any age group, even folks over 65. The numbers are fairly evenly distributed among income levels, but lower and middle-income individuals are among the most likely one to have inadequate estate plans.
Internet document preparation service Rocket Lawyer sponsored the survey.
Preparing to Sell Inherited Property
Self-help writer Alan Lakein probably coined the catchy phrase “failing to plan is planning to fail,” although it is sometimes attributed to Ben Franklin or Winston Churchill to give it more of an impact. An extension of this idea is that an incomplete plan is not much better than no plan at all. A house blueprint that shows four walls but no roof is not much of a blueprint. So, even the people that have up-to-date wills may not be doing everything they can to make life easier for their heirs.
A successful inherited property sale really starts with the text in the will and trust, and this text must be specific and purposeful and not generic. For example:
- In addition to the percentage of ownership, add language regarding the disposition of the property, whether it is to be retained, sold to any buyer, or sold with strings attached (e.g. no sale to a commercial developer).
- Name a preferred realtor in the document, preferably one with experience in selling inherited property, because it is a rather specialized area.
- Consider appointing one heir as a chief among equals who has the power to resolve tie votes or other disagreements.
Make this language as specific as possible, because if circumstances change, the will can always be altered later. Even if these terms are not legally enforceable (which they probably are), they indicate the parties’ intent.
For a better transition between inherited real estate and money in your pocket, contact us today.