Real Estate Considerations For Our Elderly Parents

Last month was a tough month for our family. My father-in-law had a heart attack while on his first vacation abroad after retiring barely six months earlier. We had to deal with lack of communication, lack of information, time differences, language barriers, emotional breakdowns, Medicare and insurance issues, HIPAA and medical record restrictions, and much, much more back here at home. Fortunately we were able to get my husband’s parents home safely, now with a new outlook on life.

The events of last month have gotten me thinking again about how to be better equipped to handle emergency family situations like that with our parents. What do we need to do now in case something like this happens again to my husband’s parents? Is everything lined up on my side of the family as well?

As a Realtor, it’s also got me thinking particularly about how to deal with real property that our parents own — houses, condos, land, rental properties, etc. Fortunately that kind of stuff is quite familiar to me, as I have had my fair share of clients who needed my help with selling or leasing out such properties for their elderly parents.

Here are some things that I have observed and experienced to make the process of selling or leasing property belonging to your elderly parents just a bit smoother:

1) Have a Durable Power of Attorney in place.
Basically if you are put in charge of selling or leasing property for your parents, make sure that there is a fully executed legal document in place and available. This document should spell out your ability to buy, sell, or lease real property on behalf of your parents. This may be something included in your parents’ living trust, if they have one.

RE for Elderly Parents

2) Figure out any title issues prior to commencing any real property transactions.
Your Realtor typically will know a trusted title representative with a good title company that can assist with pulling the necessary title reports to get you set to transact any business regarding your parents’ real property. Delays may occur if you find out at the opening of escrow that your parents actually only own 50% of the property being sold. Let’s avoid those issues by reviewing title records beforehand.

3) Identify the “real” decision makers involved.
Even though you may be appointed as the person authorized to transact business on behalf of your parents, your siblings or other parties may want a say in the process as well. This needs to be clear between all people involved. Things can get really ugly if your sister is living in a property that you’re trying to sell on behalf of your parents, and your sister doesn’t want to move out or cooperate.

4) Make sure any existing occupants of the property are correctly notified of your intent to sell or lease the property to someone else.
This means locating current lease agreements and documentation to ensure you’re not overstepping your boundaries. This means knowing your state’s current tenant/landlord laws. This also means be careful and get everything done in writing to keep accurate record of communications with all parties involved.

5) Know the financial status of the property.
You can gather some information on existing mortgages and liens on the property when in contact with the title representative (see #2 above), but it’s best to obtain the latest mortgage statement (if any) on the property, the latest HOA dues information and status (if any), and any other documentation of outstanding debts that would need to be paid off and/or disclosed in order to sell or lease the property.

Like with any real estate property transaction, preparation is key. Knowing these things up front prior to transacting any sort of business with your parents’ real property will make the process much less stressful and worrisome. Then you can better focus on taking care of your elderly parents’ other needs.

For more information about how to handle real property transactions for your elderly parents, feel free to contact me.

Note: I am not an attorney. Any information provided herein is not to be considered legal advice. All information herein are opinions of my own.

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