Menlo Park, CA asked in Estate Planning for California

Q: I need to sell my house quickly I am a widower and have no children do I need to put the house in a trust.

My wife died four years ago and the house is still held in both our names, no trust.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Nina Whitehurst
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Nina Whitehurst
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in California

A: I can think of no reason to put your house in a trust if you are planning on selling it soon anyway. You might need a trust for other reasons, but facilitating a sale to occur soon is not one of them. You do, however, need to consult a probate attorney about updating the title to your house so that it is in your name alone. If you do not do that, then you will find it difficult to sell because the title company will require your wife's signature, which would be impossible for you to obtain. Get this done before you put it on the market lest you end up creating liability for yourself when you show up at the closing unable to perform as agreed.

Sally Bergman
Sally Bergman
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • San Mateo, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: While you may not need to place your house in a revocable trust before you sell it, I would caution you that you likely should place the proceeds of the sale in a trust. As well, particularly as a widower with no children, it's extremely important that you have a health care directive and other documents in place.

I recommend that you speak to an elder law attorney about the questions you raise as well as many others. If you have health issues that could at some point in the future require long-term skilled nursing, you need to be aware that a house is an exempt asset when qualifying for long-term Medi-Cal benefits. Once you sell the house, you convert that house into a countable asset that would disqualify you. Depending on many factors, you may want to consider transferring a partial interest in the home to an irrevocable trust that would not later be countable if you need Medi-Cal benefits. You would have to do this, however, before you sell your home.

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