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posted: 2/25/2012 12:01 AM

On homes and real estate: Title and deed

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Q. My husband and I recently paid off our home mortgage. Only my name is on the deed. I would like both of our names to appear on the title to the house, so that in the event of my death, my husband would clearly have ownership of the property.

What kind of deed should I use? Do you recommend using a real estate lawyer for this process? Is there a difference between a title and a deed? Are there tax implications? Do I even need to add his name, or does a will that transfers all assets to my husband suffice?

A. Any type of deed used in your state can make the two of you into co-owners. Use a lawyer for this simple service. The new deed must be made out in correct form (legal description of the property, for instance, and proper acknowledgment) to be accepted for entering in your county's public records office.

In real estate, the word "title" simply means "ownership." It's not a piece of paper. A deed, on the other hand, is a document, and it's used to transfer title.

There's no tax consequence to gift transactions between spouses.

And finally, while it's always prudent to state your wishes in a will, I don't know enough about your whole situation to advise you. Talk to the lawyer about that while you're there.

Q. We bought five acres of unimproved land near a major lake in 1973. We have made no improvements. My husband died last year. We have paid taxes every year. My children do not want the property.

I talked to a real estate agent in the area, and she's not willing to take it, as land is not selling in the area. I have talked to a charity, and even they don't want it. If I stopped paying the taxes, would it affect my credit rating? Any ideas of how to get rid of this property?

A. Yes, just walking away from the property taxes will hurt your credit rating.

It's understandable that your land may not be worth enough to pay for a real estate broker's time and trouble. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's worthless. Try a couple of classified ads in local papers where it's located, and put it on Craigslist as well. You can ask a rock-bottom price -- maybe just enough to pay for the legal costs of transferring ownership. Let me know what happens!

Please, no offers to take the land. I never put readers of the column in touch with one another.

Q. You had a question where some buyers found an undisclosed mold problem. Could they take legal action against the seller who hid the problem?

I had the same problem with an undisclosed moisture issue in a crawl space that the owner knew was there because there are signs of his cheap attempts to deal with it. He said there was no moisture problem, an obvious lie.

A. There's never enough room in the column to discuss much beyond the specific question being asked. Those homeowners wondered whether they would have to inform potential buyers some day about the problem they had fixed, so that's what I answered.

They didn't tell me how long ago they'd bought the house or whether the statute of limitations might have expired for suing their seller. Or for all we know, maybe they did sue.

Q. I own a home (left by my mother) with my two brothers. I want to buy them out. One brother says that since the two of them are selling to me, they should each get half of the selling price. I say they should each get one-third of the selling price, the same as if we were selling to an outside party. Which is correct?

A. Perhaps the misunderstanding comes from the difference between "market value" and "selling price." In this case, the sale price -- the amount you'll pay your brothers -- will be two-thirds of full market value. And each of them will indeed get half of that.

You already own one-third of the property, and each of the brothers can sell you his one-third. It's fair to pay each of them one-third of market value.

You may want to hire a local real estate broker for an inexpensive one-page estimate of value. Your brothers could do the same, with the understanding that the buyout price will be based on the average of the two estimates.

• Edith Lank will respond to questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, N.Y. 14620 (include a stamped return envelope), or readers may email her through askedith.com.

2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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