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Title insurance provides more protection than opinion

Q: What do you think of title insurance versus title opinion? I own half of 200 acres of property with a house, and I am buying the other half with cash. I have an abstract of title that goes back to 1861. My family has owned it since the 1940s.

Is it a good idea to get title insurance, and what will that do for me? Or does title opinion make more sense? — askedith.com

A: A title opinion is just that: an attorney’s conclusion that it looks as if you’re getting good uncontested ownership. That’s reassuring, but you could also use a guarantee. That would be a promise to make good any losses you might suffer if it later turns out that, for instance, an unknown heir turns up and claims the property. And that calls for title insurance.

Avoiding probate

Q: I have a comment about your response to the widow who was not sure what to do with her house. You recommended that she sign a will. A beneficiary deed would be a better way to dispose of real estate. With a will, the property would have to go through probate. With a beneficiary deed, the property would pass outside of probate, which would save time, money and hassle. — askedith.com

A: Thanks for the advice, but beneficiary deeds are not available in every state. And you know, going through probate is not all that bad.

When anyone dies, no matter how small the estate, a lawyer should be consulted even if just to find out that nothing needs be done.

More timeshare woes

Q: My wife and I are trying to pay off two timeshares we purchased through Bluegreen Vacations. One is in Las Vegas, and the other is in Solara, Florida.

I would like to sell or somehow get rid of both of them. I have talked to many companies. I don’t think they are honest. Can you please suggest somewhere you know we could turn to sell or some honest company to help us get out of the timeshares?

I would truly appreciate some help, as I don’t know what else to do and we are financially struggling to find a solution. — J. G.

A: Take a look at the Timeshare Users Group (www.tug2.net). And meanwhile — it sounds as if you already know this — don’t give anyone money in advance to sell your timeshares.

Problem ex-tenants

Q: My husband passed away a few years ago, and I am currently preparing our large, old Victorian two-family home (where I currently reside) to put it on the market. My children have helped clean out decades’ worth of accumulated belongings, and I have made a few necessary improvements/repairs.

I am almost ready to call my Realtor, but my tenants recently moved out, leaving an enormous amount of stuff behind in the apartment and garage. They have been promising to retrieve all of it but only taken care of a fraction of it, and our agreed-upon (verbal and by text) deadline has passed.

What are my rights and obligations? Do I need to involve a lawyer? Unfortunately, we had no lease. The tenants were unreliable about payment over the years. I have let them know that I do not expect any back payments, but I asked if they would please just clear out their things. It seemed like the least they could do. So far, this has not happened. — askedith.com

A: From a practical point of view, you could go on just wasting time while you try getting the tenants to take their stuff. Or you could spend the money to have it all moved to a storage facility and then pay the rental charges. Or, after a certain period of time — state laws vary — you might even run a sale. Or you could call a nonprofit that will clean it out and take everything (there are such — in my town it’s a veterans organization).

But you shouldn’t do anything till you consult an attorney to find out what your rights are. How recently did those tenants leave? By state law, that may make a difference. Not having a written lease isn’t necessarily a drawback, by the way. It may even turn out to be helpful.

It’s certainly time to act. If you don’t have a lawyer, call a local firm and ask to speak with the real estate specialist.

Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at edithlank@aol.com or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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