What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Close

Now that you’ve invested extensive time and energy into the process of buying a home in NJ, it can feel a bit overwhelming to realize that you still have one hurdle to clear – the closing. Most people have at least a vague, general knowledge of the fact that you have to “close” on a property before it officially becomes yours. But what exactly does this mysterious “closing” entail?

The How (to prepare):

To ensure that your closing (or settlement, as it is often called) goes smoothly, it’s best to be fully prepared in advance. Because contract language can be confusing and lengthy, it is in your best interest to have an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney review all of your loan statements and the purchase contract during your three day attorney review period, which is required by law to begin within three business days of your official closing date.

Along with having your attorney carefully review all of your paperwork, you should be allowed to do a last walk-through of the home 24 hours before the closing. This walk-through has two main purposes: to ensure that everything is in the condition that the seller agreed to in the contract, and to make sure that the seller has fully and completely vacated the premises (unless it has been otherwise negotiated in the contract).

The Who:

State laws dictate who must be present at a real estate closing. In New Jersey, the buyer(s) must be present to sign all of the official paperwork and final loan documents. The buyer’s attorney can be present if there are any questions still left unanswered, but your NJ real estate attorney is not required to attend the closing. Your real estate agent and/or title company representative will typically handle all of the closing details.

Other people who may attend the closing include: the seller, the seller’s real estate agent and occasionally, a representative from your lending institution.

The Where:

New Jersey real estate closings most often take place at the buyer’s attorney’s office or at the buyer’s realtor’s office. The location is negotiable so that it is as accommodating as possible for everyone involved.

The What (to bring):

On the day of your closing, you’ll to bring proof of your identity, proof of your homeowners insurance policy, any home inspection reports and a copy of the contract that you have reviewed with your attorney. You’ll need this copy to verify that no changes have been made to the official contract that you will be signing.

This is also the time to fork over your down payment and closing costs. You cannot make these payments with a personal check, so be sure to verify with your closing agent beforehand what form of payment is preferred. It will likely be a cashier’s check or, in some cases, a wire transfer. If there are any smaller surprise fees that need to be paid at closing, you should be able to pay for those with a check.

The What (to expect):

Once you arrive at your closing or settlement meeting, you can expect to do a lot (and we mean A LOT) of signing your name on all of the closing documents and final loan paperwork.

The transaction will be recorded by a representative from the title company, who will then file the deed with the appropriate township/municipality.

Just as your hand starts to cramp uncontrollably from all of the signing you have to do, it will be over and you’ll be handed the keys to your new NJ home!

 

 

 

 

New Jersey Title Insurance: Do I Really Need it?

Purchasing real property in New Jersey (or in any state, for that matter), is definitely not a time to take short cuts. While most home buyers acknowledge this fact, some may still question the necessity of some of the steps along the journey to home ownership. The process of buying a home involves a pretty long checklist – if you’re doing things the right way.

One standard task that you need to accomplish before the closing date is purchasing title insurance. Buyers who aren’t familiar with title searches and title insurance may be caught off-guard when they discover another fee that they are responsible for in their quest to own a home. Important questions you may have include:

What is the purpose of a title search?
The person or persons listed on a property’s title are the rightful owners of the home. When the title insurance company (or your NJ real estate attorney) performs a title search on your intended home, they are looking for anything in the history of the property’s ownership that suggests there may be a problem in transferring the ownership of the home. This preliminary examination combs through records surrounding the previous ownership of the home, i.e: deeds, trusts, wills, divorce agreements, judgments, bankruptcies, tax records and liens. Any minor encumbrances (a lien that needs to be paid off, missing signatures) can usually be cleared up, allowing the sale to proceed.

Why do I need to buy title insurance if the title search was clear?
The reason title insurance is necessary is because it is virtually impossible for any initial title search, no matter how thorough, to foresee a claim to ownership that was filed incorrectly and/or is long-buried in a pile of dusty paperwork. Misspelled names, long-lost relatives, estate planning snafus and other problems can pop up at any time in the future – after you’ve already closed on the property and have moved in.

If a title problem arises after I’ve moved in, how will title insurance help me?
Your title insurance lender’s policy will act as a safety net if a buried problem turns out to present a real claim to the property even after you’ve closed on it. If a long-lost co-owner turns up and wants to enforce his claim of ownership, he can take the matter to court, however, even if he wins and is granted ownership of the home, your title insurance lender’s policy will pay your lender the balance on your mortgage. If you also purchase an owner’s policy, that will kick in to reimburse some or all of the money you already paid, such as a down payment and any initial mortgage payments.

How much does title insurance cost?
Purchasing title insurance is going to cost you a one-time fee of around $1,000, give or take, for the lender’s policy, and less than $100 for an owner’s policy. This is money well spent even if you never make use of the coverage. That may sound strange, but here’s why it’s true: on the very small off-chance that a missed claim surfaces and you are without title insurance, you could lose your home and a significant amount of money.

Virtually all lenders will require you to acquire title insurance before they agree to approve your mortgage. In addition, most NJ real estate attorneys won’t represent you if you attempt to refuse title insurance because of the inherent risks involved in your future as a property owner. Title insurance may seem unnecessary, but it is absolutely, without a doubt, a crucial piece of any New Jersey real estate transaction.

 

Stripping a Second Mortgage in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Many people have taken out a second mortgage on their home. These second mortgages are usually referred to as home equity loans, because they are based on the amount of equity you have in your home. Your original mortgage loan’s value vs what your home is worth, along with your credit score determines how much money you can borrow through a home equity loan.

Typically, these loans are paid to homeowners in one lump sum so they can do home renovations or repairs. Some people use home equity loans to pay off a large debt with a high interest rate or to buy a vacation home. A home equity loan can seem extremely advantageous if you’re in need of some fast money, however the danger is that if you fail to repay the loan, you could lose your house.

Getting in over your head with your mortgage has been a popular theme in the past decade, so if you’re finding that you can’t make both your first and second mortgage payments, you’re not alone. Luckily, you do have some options.

If you could eliminate your second mortgage, would that make your monthly living expenses doable? Wishing you never took out that home equity loan? Filing for a NJ chapter 13 bankruptcy might be right for you.

A process known as ‘lien stripping’ can essentially erase that second mortgage, but this process is only available to debtors who file for chapter 13 bankruptcy. Additionally, in order to qualify for a lien stripping, your first mortgage balance must be higher than the current value of your home.

For example, if your first mortgage balance is $300,000, but your home is currently worth $275,000, you have zero equity in the property. In fact, you’re said to be ‘upside-down’ or ‘under water’ in regards to your first mortgage.

A $25,000 second mortgage would qualify to be stripped via chapter 13 bankruptcy in New Jersey. Upon application for a chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debts will be reorganized so that you can afford your monthly payments on all of your secured debt. In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, a second mortgage is referred to as a junior lien, and will be lumped in with all of your unsecured debts.

Throughout your chapter 13 repayment plan, you only have to pay a percentage of the total lump sum of all of your unsecured debts because they are considered “non-priority” debts. Upon successful completion of your bankruptcy payment plan, you will be granted a discharge. A chapter 13 discharge will put the lien strip into motion, and you will no longer be responsible for any remaining balance on your home equity loan or second mortgage.

The same is true for homeowners who also have a third mortgage on their home. If you want to stay in your home and would be able to afford your mortgage plus monthly living expenses if only you could “get rid of” your second or third mortgage(s), ask George about filing for a NJ chapter 13 today. You only have debt to lose!

 

NJ Senate Bill 1593: A Proposed 6 Month Foreclosure Stay

Because the number of New Jersey foreclosures continues to rise even as we are now reaching the mid-point of 2017, the NJ Senate and Assembly have proposed new legislation with the goal of generating positive change for underwater New Jersey homeowners.

Senate Bill 1593 proposes that a six month stay of foreclosure proceedings shall be implemented in New Jersey if such action is agreeable to the homeowner and lender. The bill also proposes that the court can impose the six month stay if it has been determined that it would be possible for credit counseling and/or negotiations to occur during the six months that would potentially eliminate the need for a foreclosure.

Homeowners who are offered a reasonable and feasible mortgage loan modification by their lenders prior to beginning foreclosure proceedings will not be eligible for the six month stay. If an acceptable loan modification agreement is reached between the parties during the six months, the forbearance will be lifted and mortgage payments will resume. Additionally, if at any time during the six month forbearance, the homeowner moves out of the residence or advises their lender in writing that they have no intention of participating in the formal foreclosure mediation program (required during the six month stay), the stay will be lifted immediately and foreclosure proceedings will commence.

This legislation is an attempt by the Senate Committee along with the Urban Affairs Committee to drastically reduce the overall number of NJ foreclosures that continue to plague the Garden State a full decade after the Mortgage Crisis that began in 2007. While most states’ real estate markets have bounced back, several states are still struggling with high foreclosure rates.

In addition to NJ, the following states still have excessively high foreclosure numbers as of May 2017: Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, Illinois, Maryland and Delaware. New Jersey tops the list with a foreclosure rate of one in every 515 residential housing units. Delaware, in second place, has a foreclosure rate of one in every 753 housing units. As you can see, New Jersey is the clear “winner” by a landslide.

In fact, the country’s two most foreclosure-stricken cities are also in New Jersey, with #1 being Atlantic City and #2 being Trenton. Jersey’s neighbor across the bridge, Philadelphia isn’t far behind, coming in at #5 even though Pennsylvania’s overall foreclosure rates are down.

New Jersey’s continued inability to pull out of what can now only be described as a foreclosure emergency has led to damaging effects like neighborhood blight, which greatly reduces property values. This, in turn, leads to more homeowners who are ‘underwater’ (owing more money on their mortgage than their home is actually worth), which then leads to more foreclosures. The cycle seems unending in NJ, and drastic measures are needed to put a stop to the deleterious effects on the state’s economy. We have high hopes that New Jersey will be able to come out ahead of foreclosure, and this bill is one giant step in the right direction.

 

Fixing Your Credit to be Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Loan

If your credit score is very low (under 500), you may feel like you’ll never be approved for a mortgage. Owning your own home is a life-long dream for so many people, and luckily, it’s not one that you have to give up. You will, however, have some work to do before you will be granted a mortgage loan.

Anyone who is looking to buy a house in the relatively near future should take a good look at their credit report(s). The higher your credit score is when you’re approved, the better your mortgage rate will be. This can save you hundreds of dollars on your monthly mortgage payment. First, request a copy of your most recent reports from each of the three main credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

As an aside, it’s wise to take a look at your credit report once a year on a regular schedule even if you’re not in the home-buying market.

Once you have a copy of your credit reports, the first thing on your agenda should be scanning it with a fine-tooth comb to check for any errors. This is the easiest way to give your credit score a quick boost.

If you find any errors (debts that are being reported incorrectly, satisfied debts that continue to show up as unpaid, payments marked as late when you paid on time), filing a dispute with the agency whose report contains the error(s) is the next step. Working with a New Jersey credit repair attorney is a good idea if you have errors and a lot of negative marks on your credit report. Your attorney will negotiate with your creditors, requesting forgiveness for lesser offenses like late payments. This “goodwill letter” is frequently an effective approach to jump-starting your credit repair process.

Once you’re sure that any errors have been appropriately dealt with, the following behaviors will give your credit score further boosts to get it up to your “goal range.” Your NJ credit repair attorney will know how much your score needs to increase in order for you to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Make your monthly bill payments early

Even better, if you can make an extra payment each month on your credit cards with the highest balances, you’ll be able to zap your debts faster.

Create a debt resolution plan

In addition to making more than one payment per month, create a plan to pay down all of your existing debt until it’s gone. The lower your credit utilization ratio, the better.

Raise your credit limits

Related to lowering your credit utilization ratio, you can also request a higher credit limit on one or two of your credit cards. Be careful with this tip, though, and only do this if you have the self-control to keep yourself from charging even more purchases.

Consolidate

If you have more than one card with the same lender, keeping your oldest card active and transferring balances from newer cards (and then closing the newer cards), the overall age of your debt will be older, which looks good to credit bureaus.

If you are diligent about reigning in your spending, paying all of your bills early or on time, and taking the steps listed above, it is possible to boost your credit score 50-100 points in six months to one year. Your results will be dependent on your starting credit score and the type and number of dings currently on your credit report.

Before you know it, you’ll be walking out of your lender’s office with a mortgage pre-approval letter!

New Jersey Foreclosure: Frequently Asked Questions

In a New Jersey foreclosure sale, your home will be sold in an auction-type setting. The sale will be publicly announced and will be open for anyone to attend. Since New Jersey is a judicial foreclosure state, the local sheriff will typically lead the auction. If the sheriff cannot conduct your sale, another public official will do so.

Everyone who attends the foreclosure sale is able to place bids in order to buy your former home. As in all auctions, “to the highest bidder go the spoils.” The spoils in this case refers to your mortgaged home.

So: you stopped paying your mortgage payment. For a variety of reasons, people sometimes do this. Maybe you ran into temporary (or permanent) financial trouble because you: lost a job, got divorced, fell ill, made some poor money choices – the potential reasons are endless. Regardless of how you ended up in foreclosure, it’s probably not something you hoped would happen to you one day.

No one goes around saying, “I hope I get foreclosed on at least once in my lifetime!” Because foreclosure something you didn’t wish for – you probably don’t know what to expect. As a general rule, we don’t sit around thinking about things that we don’t plan to experience. Therefore, now that you have found yourself smack dab in the middle of a foreclosure, chances are that you have some questions.

We’ve covered a lot of foreclosure sub-topics here on our blog. Today’s foreclosure question we’d like to answer for you is:

“Who gets the money from the foreclosure sale?”

The normal course of a foreclosure auction is that the bidding remains rather low and the final, winning bid is often less than the house is actually worth. In fact, many times foreclosed homes are sold for less than the original mortgagor still owes the bank. There are, of course, exceptions.

Here is a breakdown of what will happen to the proceeds from your foreclosure sale, who receives payment, and in what order:

  • The first person/entity to be paid from the foreclosure sale proceeds is the New Jersey lender who granted you the loan for the mortgage in the first place. The bank or mortgage company needs to recover as much money as possible because you didn’t repay them like you originally agreed. A small portion of the proceeds will also go toward settling the cost of having the foreclosure auction.
  • If there is still money left after the sale is paid for and the lender has fully recovered the amount they are owed, any secondary lenders (2nd or 3rd mortgage granters) will receive the full amount you borrowed (perhaps for a home equity loan) or as much as possible.
  • After the above parties have received payment in full is the only time you, as the mortagor, will be entitled to receive any money from your foreclosure sale. Keep in mind: you are not likely to receive much, if any, money from a foreclosure sale because foreclosed homes don’t typically sell for as much as they would in a traditional real estate transaction.

In fact, you may even owe money when all is said and done. If the winning foreclosure bidder pays less than you still owe on the property, your lender will suffer a loss. This discrepancy is known as a deficiency balance. As the mortgagor, you can legally be held accountable for this amount.

You can learn more about NJ foreclosure procedures, get the answers to common foreclosure FAQs, and find out how a foreclosure will affect your life on our NJ law blog. We can also help you save your home via foreclosure defense, if that is your ultimate goal.

NJ Mortgage Help for Single Parents

Going through a separation and divorce is never easy, but the complication level increases when you add children to the mix. Establishing a stable family life for your kids is something every good parent strives to do, and divorce can throw a wrench into even the best laid plans.

Supporting the expenses required as a newly single parent is a daunting task as you attempt to maintain as much constancy and normalcy for your children as possible. To that end, the marital/family home is most often where divorced parents elect for their children to remain living.

With that being said, finances don’t always stretch far enough for one parent on their own to pay the mortgage on that family home, along with all other monthly expenses. If both parents are able to pitch in financially to keep the children and one parent in the home, the chances of losing the home are lower. However, the threat of foreclosure for recently divorced single parents is real, and although frightening, it is not something that will go away if you ignore it.

If you are a single parent fighting to keep the home your children have thus far grown up in, you may be overwhelmed by the responsibility of making that monthly mortgage payment on your own. Missed payments are common after significant life events like job loss, illness, death, and, you guessed it – divorce.

The bank will never throw me out since I have young children, right?

Unfortunately, too many people simply give banks and lenders a lot more credit than they deserve. Your bank does not care if you have children, an elderly parent, three sick dogs and a chronic illness – their bottom line is money. You may think, “But there are people working at that bank; surely there is someone there with enough empathy to see that I am struggling.”

While that may be true – of course there are kind people working in banks and lending institutions – they must follow the instructions they are given by their superiors. A mortgage loan that is not being paid on time or at all WILL be sent into foreclosure by the lender. The question is not “If” but “When.”

How can I keep the bank from foreclosing? I just need a little more time!

The best move you can make if you’re in a similar situation is to take action before your home is foreclosed upon by your lender. You may qualify for a loan modification or refinancing. A New Jersey foreclosure and bankruptcy attorney should be the next person you call. Not many attorneys specialize in both areas, so it is important that you work to find a certified NJ attorney who has the experience you need.

Why do I need a bankruptcy attorney? I’m not broke and I want to keep my home.

An experienced NJ attorney who handles both foreclosure defense and bankruptcy matters will be able to stall your foreclosure by using the Automatic Stay. This tactic can only be utilized if the debtor files for bankruptcy.

Even if filing for bankruptcy was not on your top ten list of things to accomplish in life, it is a means to an end that has helped a multitude of people in your exact situation before.

 

Image: “Mother’s Moment” by Leonid Mamchenkov – licensed under CC 2.0

Do You Understand Your Mortgage’s Fine Print?

Now that the housing/mortgage crisis has begun to level out in most parts of the country, it has once again become a buyer’s market, and this time in a much more reasonable manner. Interest rates are good, but not unbelievably good like they were leading up to the 2007 crisis. As we all know by now: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Just because we’re looking at the US Financial Crisis (2007-2008) in the rear view mirror doesn’t mean that getting a mortgage loan today comes without risks, though. In fact, there is a lot to be learned from the mistakes made a decade ago.

In order to ensure that you aren’t getting yourself into something you can’t handle or something that will change over time (and not in your favor) – you simply MUST have a complete and solid understanding of everything contained in your mortgage agreement.

To most people, this probably sounds like common sense. But have you ever looked at a real, live mortgage agreement? They are very lengthy with a lot of industry jargon that can quickly spin you into a confused puddle on the floor.

Your best bet is to find a New Jersey lawyer with real estate knowledge. Make sure you trust him and his team implicitly – in all likelihood a paralegal may also work with you on real estate matters, so be sure to meet everyone in the office who will be helping you understand your documents.

Questions to have ready for your attorney and/or paralegal include:

  • Is my rate variable or fixed? If the answer is variable, find out the lowest fixed rate that you’ll be able to lock in your loan.
  • Will there be penalties if I have to break my mortgage contract?
  • Am I required to pay mortgage insurance? If so, find out why. You may be able to work with a different lender who will not require mortgage insurance. If mortgage insurance is non-negotiable, be sure to ask how long you’ll be paying it, because it can often be a significant sum.
  • How long does my mortgage loan last? Will different terms lower my monthly payment?
  • What fees am I required to pay up front and are there any fees that were tossed into the total loan amount?
  • Do I have a balloon payment clause?
  • What are mortgage “points?”
  • Is a down payment required?
  • What is my monthly payment?
  • What is my credit score? We left this question until the end for a reason. We wanted to leave you with it on your mind. Finding out your credit score should be one of the first things you do even before you begin applying for mortgage pre-approval.

Your credit score will have a significant impact on the interest rate you will be offered by lenders. If your score is less than desirable, or even “fair”, talk to your NJ real estate attorney and paralegal about waiting to buy a home until you can boost your score into the “good” or “excellent” range. Work with your trusted legal team to raise your credit score. They will also be able to guide you in determining the best time to jump into the real estate market so that you qualify for the best loan options. This will save you a lot of money throughout the length of your mortgage.

 

 

Images: “Chocolates 1” and “Chocolates 2” by Windell Oskay – licensed under CC 2.0

Can I Receive Hurricane Sandy Forbearance if I Filed for Bankruptcy?

Homeowners in New Jersey and all along the Atlantic coast will be hard-pressed to ever forget Hurricane Sandy – a deadly “superstorm” that hit the eastern seaboard in October of 2012. Assessed as the second-costliest hurricane to ever hit the United States, estimates of Sandy’s damage (in the US alone) are approximately $72 billion. The only hurricane in US history to cause more damage was Hurricane Katrina.

New York and New Jersey were the hardest hit states, with gale force winds that reached 90 mph and heavy rain (up to 12 inches in some locations) which led to flooding and significant structural damage of homes, businesses, beaches, boardwalks, roads, and more. Power outages were widespread and lasted for weeks in some places. For the first time since 1888, the New York Stock Exchange closed (on October 29 and 30) due to weather. Even Halloween was postponed in New Jersey, much to the chagrin of kids across the state.

As we hyper-focus on the damage done by Hurricane Sandy to New Jersey alone, we know that nearly 400,000 homes suffered damage from the storm, many were without power for an extended period of time, and 37 people died.

Relief efforts to clean up and rebuild the damaged areas of New Jersey were impressive, and some (but not enough) federal aid monies were approved for the state. Some of that federal aid was disbursed extremely slowly which means the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is still felt today, nearly five years after the storm.

Residents along the New Jersey shore sustained the most damage – both from flooding and high winds – to their homes and properties. The fact that five years has passed should mean that everyone in NJ has recovered from the storm; unfortunately that just isn’t the case. Although many people and organizations dedicated extraordinary man hours and donations toward the recovery effort, there are homeowners who still remain displaced and/or are facing foreclosure.

The good news is that Governor Christie recently signed a bill (S-2300, A-333) that will potentially offer some much needed help to those who are still struggling post-Sandy. The bill specifically grants Sandy victims with a mortgage forbearance period of up to three years. In order to receive the forbearance, homeowners must have been approved for help via the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program OR the Low-to-Moderate Income Program.

Affected NJ homeowners struggled for years trying to rebuild their homes after Sandy. Without enough funds to make their homes habitable again, a multitude of these residents had to rent alternative housing. Paying rent while still paying the mortgage on their now damaged property pushed many homeowners into bankruptcy.

Many homeowners filed for the protection offered by the Automatic Stay in the hopes that funding would be released before their bankruptcy case was finalized. Not realizing how long it would take for federal relief funds to be released, their bankruptcy cases ended long ago, and many of the homeowners chose not to reaffirm their mortgages.

Now that bill S-2300, A-333 has been signed, those who filed for bankruptcy and didn’t reaffirm their mortgages are wondering if they still qualify for forbearance. The good news is that a lender may not require that a mortgage be reaffirmed in order for the mortgage holder to receive forbearance.

Homeowners who’ve filed for bankruptcy without reaffirming their mortgages may have to provide their lender with a letter acknowledging that the mortgage debt was discharged in bankruptcy. This protects lenders/creditors from worrying that they’ll be sued when they try to collect on the debt again.

It’s very possible that lenders will not feel comfortable discussing the matter directly with the homeowner. They don’t want to seem as though they are breaking bankruptcy law by attempting to collect on a discharged debt. In this case, borrowers should work with a bankruptcy or foreclosure attorney in New Jersey to negotiate with their lender on their behalf.

 

Image: “Crooked House” by Don McCullough – licensed under CC by 2.0

Multi-Generational Living Arrangements & Home Ownership Rights

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Today’s modern families are ever-shifting in a multitude of directions, some of which were made possible by the evolution of our nation’s legal system. Still other present-day families form when an adult “child” returns to live at home after attending college, job loss, divorce, or simply by choice. Additionally, many older parents live with a daughter or son and their family in order to cut costs and to share child-rearing duties of the next generation.

Regardless of the reason, the changing structure of the typical American family can raise some questions about ownership of the family home. When other adults outside of the original home owner live together, what are their rights if that homeowner passes away?

Example: Single mom Nicole and her mother decide the best course of action after Nicole’s divorce is for the two of them to move in together. Nicole’s husband kept the marital home, so Nicole and her two children move into her mother’s more-than-ample house. As Nicole’s father passed away several years ago, this decision will allow companionship for Nicole’s mother, and will relieve the financial burden on both women.

Something important for Nicole and her mother to think about is what will happen to the home when Nicole’s mom passes away? Assuming the current living situation continues until such a time, what will Nicole’s rights be?

In New Jersey, Nicole and her mother can modify the home mortgage paperwork to include special language that will protect Nicole and her children from losing the home upon the death of her mom. The deed to the home must say that Nicole and her mother are joint tenants with right of survivorship.

Joint tenancy means that both parties named own the property equally, and upon the death of one of them, the deed to the home will automatically transfer to the other, superseding anything that is stated in the decedent’s will.

If Nicole’s mother had previously created a will indicating that upon her death, her home should be divided equally between all three of her children (Nicole and her two siblings), as long as the proper language was added onto the title documentation, Nicole should have no problem being granted full ownership of the home.

While in theory this is a relatively simple concept, it must be handled with the utmost seriousness and attention to detail.  As has happened in the past, if the joint tenancy language is not used precisely as required, legal disputes can and likely will arise.

Do you have questions about your rights to real property that you shared with another family member or unrelated roommate who has now passed away? If you were not joint tenants, you may still have some recourse, but you will have to act swiftly and with the aid of a very experienced NJ estate planning/real estate attorney.

If you’re currently in a situation like Nicole’s, be proactive and make sure that your living arrangements are solidified for the future by taking title of the home in joint tenancy.

Image credit: Bryan Anthony