DEAR MR. MYERS: I got divorced six years ago and have raised my daughter (now age 8) without a single penny of help from her deadbeat dad, even though he is supposed to pay me $225 in monthly child support. I finally scraped together enough to make a down payment on a one-bedroom house earlier this year. Would it make sense to now put my daughter’s name on the title to my house so she and I would own the property, 50-50, as joint-tenants? By doing so, I’m thinking that she could automatically inherit my half-interest of the house if I died, and then her crappy father wouldn’t get anything.
ANSWER: Your heart may be in the right place, but naming your 8-year-old daughter as a joint-tenant on the title to your home probably would be a bad idea.
Although many states permit a minor to hold title as a joint-tenant, most also prohibit a child from conveying that title to someone else. So, if you named your young daughter as a joint-tenant and then decided to sell or refinance before she reaches legal age, you might have to go before a judge and ask for a court-approved guardian to protect her financial interest in the home.
Seems kind of goofy? Sure, but you would likely not be able to act as your own child’s legal guardian because your status as a co-owner of the home could create a conflict of interest.
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You obviously need to make a will now that names a guardian for your daughter, assuming that you haven’t already done so. Also consider forming an inexpensive living trust, naming your young daughter as the beneficiary of the trust and another adult as your “successor trustee” to oversee your assets if you unfortunately die before she turns legal age.
Forming a trust could skip the long and costly probate process that a simple will would demand, plus make the inheritance proceedings much easier.
REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: A recent Gallup Poll found that only 44 percent of Americans have a will that explains how they would like their home, money and other assets distributed after their death. Fewer than 20 percent have formed a money-saving living trust.
DEAR MR MYERS: I am 73 and a third-generation veteran of the Army. My grandfather and father both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, and I would like to be buried there when I die as well. However, I heard a report on the radio last week that said the cemetery is filling up fast and that soon, no more burials will be allowed there. Is this true?
ANSWER: It’s true that Arlington is filling up as our nation’s veterans grow older and more pass away. But the radio reporter who claimed that new burials won’t be allowed there soon was mistaken: A spokesperson for the Department of the Army, which operates the 624-acre final resting place for about 400,000 military vets, says that the current rate of about 30 burials each workday means that the landmark won’t be full for another 35 years or so.
The land once was the estate of Mary Lee, longtime wife of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee. Victims of the Civil War were the first to be buried there, in 1864.
Only a handful of soldiers rest inside the site’s historic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, sometimes simply called the Tomb of the Unknowns. But more than 4,600 other unidentified servicemen and servicewomen are buried across the cemetery’s picturesque grounds.
DEAR MR. MYERS: Is there a difference between a real estate “mediator” and a real estate “arbitrator”?
ANSWER: Yes. Though both mediation and arbitration can be a cheaper and time-saving alternative to filing a formal lawsuit over a dispute, there are some major differences between the two.
A mediator usually doesn’t have any legal authority to render a binding decision. Instead, he or she works with the two bickering parties in an attempt to cobble together an informal agreement that both find mutually acceptable.
An arbitrator, on the other hand, works more like a judge (many are retired justices). The arbitrator hears both parties’ arguments, listens to witnesses that may be involved and reviews any evidence that is presented. The decision he or she renders is legally binding, and the result often is entered into public records.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.