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posted: 1/12/2013 5:30 AM

Giving a house to a child is a simple legal matter

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Q. I still have a mortgage but would like to give my house to my daughter. How do I do it? She cannot buy it as her credit is bad. I'm 86 and have to do something before I pass away.

A. Have you considered just making a will? That's the simplest thing.

At any rate, giving the house away is easy. You just have a lawyer draw up a new deed, sign it and have it entered in the public records. Lenders do not usually call in a loan when the transfer is to a family member. You might want to double-check that with your mortgage company ahead of time, though.

I don't know your whole situation or your daughter's, so I can't say whether this is a wise step. Before you do anything, talk it over with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or elder law. You may need to consider possible unintended consequences or make provisions now to avoid future capital gains taxes.

And by the way, I'm also 86 years old. That's even the name of my blog:

Q. I was browsing county records and found a record stating that my mortgage was discharged over a year ago. I am still paying on it so how can that be? Is it something to do with when we were able to drop the PMI off the monthly bill?

A. Wow -- that's one I never heard before. I take it you were browsing those records on the Internet?

Dropping private mortgage insurance shouldn't trigger any change in the public records. Perhaps someone at your lender's office did make a mistake at that point. Was that when your PMI payments stopped -- more than a year ago?

This hardly seems like a problem, though I suppose there's an off chance extra paperwork could be required to clear up the error some day when you sell. You could always contact your lender about it, though I can see that just leading to more confusion.

Or you could have an accountant double-check your figures. Perhaps you've been paying more than you should, and you really have paid off the debt? Not likely, but hey, you never know!

Q. My husband is deceased. On the mortgage I am a joint owner. What must be done to remove his name? I am 75 and do not want to remortgage.

A. You don't need to remortgage. You don't need to do anything. As long as you keep making the payments, you're in no danger of losing your loan.

Q. We called a Realtor to give us a Comparative Market Analysis on a new home we wanted to buy to make sure the asking price was fair. She also came to look at our home, which we wanted to sell, and did a CMA for that property.

We told her she could list our property once we got it ready to sell. Our property was ready to put on the market and she said she would be out of town for a few weeks and would list it when she came back. We did not sign any papers with this agent. My husband put a for sale by owner sign up while the agent was out of town and the first person that looked put in a purchase offer with our lawyer, and we accepted.

The Realtor is now sending me a bill for the two market analyses she did. Am I obligated to pay her? There was never a mention of a fee for the CMA when she did the job.

A. The Comparative Market Analysis on your present home is the sort of unpaid service agents perform all the time in hopes of listing the property to sell. If they don't get the listing they're just out of luck. Your oral promise to list with her doesn't matter. In the sale of real estate, nothing counts unless it's in writing.

The work she did gathering data for the house you're buying, though, strikes me as a different matter. I don't know if you owe anything legally, but ethically you probably do. You asked for and accepted her service on a sale she wasn't involved in.

Unless she is an independent broker, though, she is not allowed to charge the public for real estate services. If any fees are due, they should be paid through her supervising broker.

• 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

2012, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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