Q: My ex-husband inherited acreage and a house (both mortgage-free) in Maryland via a revocable living trust in 2000 when his father passed away. He never transferred the titles to his name, nor filed any other legal documents on the properties. They were worth approximately $125,000 each in 2000.
He is nearing age 60, in poor physical health, unemployed and has recently depleted an investment account from which he has been drawing in order to pay living expenses. He can no longer afford to pay the property taxes for the properties but does not want to sell them.
Since he has no children, no living immediate family members and is not in communication with his closest living relatives, I made the proposal to pay the taxes for him indefinitely in return for full ownership of the properties upon his death.
My offer is strictly benevolent, as I do not want to see him ending up homeless and am concerned for the future welfare of the pets he cares for. Should he desire to sell the properties in the near future, I have asked only to be reimbursed for the out-of-pocket expenses I incur over the years. And if I pre-decease him, his estate must reimburse my estate for the expenses incurred.
I am interested in an arrangement that would give me a guarantee to the properties but at the same time expose me to as few taxes as possible. Please advise me on how to proceed. Thank you.
A: While your offer may be based on your generosity, you need to make sure your ex-husband is in agreement with you on your proposal. It may not be fair for you to get full ownership of the property if you make one payment of real estate taxes. That’s where it’s important that your ex-husband explicitly state and understand what he is doing.
As an ex-spouse, you’re right in trying to protect any money you give him and there are other ways of protecting your money. One way to protect your money is to give him a loan that would be secured by a mortgage on the property. You can even set up the loan as a line of credit type loan that would allow for disbursements for real estate taxes. In the future, you would get repaid when the property was sold.
But first, you must understand that the property is not his. The property is stilled owned by the trust that was set up by your ex-husband’s father. Unless title is transferred in the manner provided under that living trust, your ex-husband could lose that property. If he is the successor trustee in the trust, he might need to transfer title into his name or into a living trust in which he is the beneficiary.
Once he takes care of the title issues, then he might be prepared to take care of other financial issues surrounding his ownership of his home.
Depending on whether he needs the money or not, his best solution could be to sell the property and use the money he receives from the sale to pay for his living expenses and anything else he might need.
Please talk to an estate attorney or real estate attorney immediately about discussing the options he has and whether your proposal would work given your ex-husband’s current circumstances.
Good luck. Hope this works out for both of you.