A client called me the other day asking whether I could draft a Will for his brother. I explained that, if his brother asked me, I could certainly do so. Seemed like a simple thing, but then he explained further and things ended up far away from simple.
Apparently, his brother owned a house he wasn’t living in, and it had been headed into foreclosure since he couldn’t afford the payments on the mortgage. Or the taxes. Or the insurance. My client, who had his heart in the right place, didn’t want his brother to lose the house. My client had the (mistaken) belief that if the house was foreclosed on, his brother would not only lose the house, but also the house he was living in, his car, and any other pittance he had in bank accounts. So, my client took money out of his own retirement funds to pay the back mortgage, taxes, and insurance. He also then started putting money – and his own physical labor – into fixing up the property so it could be sold.
His thought was that if they could sell the house for a decent amount, he could recoup what he spent when the house was sold, and his brother would have a little nest egg after the mortgage was paid off.
But then my client heard on the news that a very young man with no prior health conditions died of COVID-19 within days. His brother works with the public and chooses not to wear a mask. Panic set in when my client realized that if his brother died before the house was sold, he may never get his money back. His brother had no Will, and his children would inherit all of his property at his death.
I had to tell my client that a simple Will would not solve the problem. Sadly, all the possible solutions would be more complicated and costly than if my client had consulted with an attorney before spending any money.
Moral of the story? Don’t spend a single penny on property that you don’t own unless you’re okay with losing that money. Or, spend a few bucks and consult with an attorney to find out how to protect yourself.
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