Will power of attorney allow you to conduct a real estate transaction?

If someone were to grant you power of attorney in regard to their finances, belongings and property, is that enough to allow you to conduct real estate transactions on their behalf? Actually, it’s a question that we hear quite often.
In such cases, the person who gives power to another individual is call a “principal.” And, the principal can assign various levels of power of attorney to his or her “agent,” thus allowing the agent to legally act on the principal’s behalf.
According to LegalZoom.com, power of attorney can be classified as limited or general. Limited power of attorney will allow an individual appointed by the principal to conduct specific transactions, such as the sale of a home. General power of attorney grants the agent much broader authority, allowing him or her to do anything the principal can do.
Additionally, powers of attorney can be classified as durable or nondurable. In simple terms, a durable power of attorney remains in effect should the principal become incapacitated due to failing health, while a nondurable power of attorney is terminated when and if the principal becomes incapacitated.
No matter what label the power of attorney carries, the agent must always act in the best interest of the principal. For example, the agent cannot legally sell property to himself for far under market value if that’s not in the principal’s best interests.
Like all legal matters, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney and/or a trusted Realtor, especially in situations that involve the sale of property.

Does the executor always have final say? It’s not that simple

If you’ve been named executor in a loved one’s will, you might be wondering if you, as executor, have final say in all matters related to the liquidation of the deceased’s property and personal belongings. There is no simple answer to this question. The executor does not “control” the estate. Rather, if you find yourself in this position, you should think of yourself as a fiduciary with an important responsibility to fulfill the deceased’s requests as faithfully as possible. 

In fact, according to NYCourts.gov, executors, administrators, or voluntary administrators (depending on the type of estate proceeding), “have a legal duty to act faithfully towards the estate and not put their personal interests ahead of duty.”

What does the executor actually do? The website goes on to state:

“Executors must carry out the wishes of the person who died as stated in the will. Administrators and voluntary administrators must settle the estate according to New York State laws of intestacy.

“Fiduciaries are responsible for protecting the property until all debts and taxes are paid and to promptly and efficiently administer the estate. In general, fiduciaries have three responsibilities:

  1. Collect, inventory and appraise all the assets of the estate.
  2. Pay the bills, taxes, estate expenses and creditors of the person who died.
  3. Transfer property according to the will or, if there is no will, then according to the law.”

In some cases, friends or family of the deceased may feel they have grounds to contest the will. The laws vary state-by-state, but in general, a properly drafted and signed will is very difficult to contest. When faced with these kinds of issues, it’s more important than ever for the executor to keep the deceased’s requests and wishes in mind. 

We’ve said before that while being named an executor is an honor, it is also difficult and time-consuming. If you are in this position and find it all a bit overwhelming, please contact an estate attorney and/or an estate liquidator to help facilitate the process.

What is the role of an estate executor?

In the real estate profession, the words “estate executor” come up rather often during conversations with homeowners, attorneys, financial experts and other industry professionals. Then again, there are many individuals who probably have no idea about the important role played by an estate executor who is left to oversee the property and belongings of a deceased friend or family member.
So what does an executor do? Recently, we came across an article on FindLaw.com that went into great detail on this subject. Following is a summary of some of the more important points we highlighted and now wish to share.
  • In simple terms, the executor oversees disposition of property and possessions. It’s a large responsibility making sure that a person’s last wishes are granted. The executor is responsible for making sure that any debts and creditors that the deceased had are paid off, and that any remaining money or property is distributed according to their wishes.
  • While an executor does not have to be a lawyer or a financial expert, the law does require an executor to fulfill his or her duties with the utmost honesty and diligence. The legal term for this is “fiduciary duty.”
  • An executor is not entitled to proceeds from the sale of property of the estate, but is often entitled to a fee as compensation for administering the will. Most states mandate that this fee be reasonable given the size or complexity of the will.
  • There are many duties that an executor of a will may have to fulfill. These duties could include finding the deceased person’s assets and keeping them safe until they can be properly distributed, deciding if probating the last will and testament in court is necessary, finding and contacting people that were named in a will who are supposed to inherit money or property, making sure the will is filed in the appropriate probate court and wrapping up the deceased’s affairs.
  • Other responsibilities may include setting up a bank account for the estate, continuing all necessary payments, paying off debts and creditors, paying final income taxes and ensuring the property distribution of the deceased’s property.

While serving as an executor is not an easy task, it is an honorable endeavor that should be completed to the very best of your ability.

Michael Olear offers insight on moving into a senior living community

Michael Olear offers insight on moving into a senior living community

Photo of two seniors at a senior living community

On March 16, Michael Olear joined other Buffalo, NY Realtors at Canterbury Woods to provide helpful insight and guidance on making a successful transition from a house into a senior living community. In fact, many of those in attendance will soon be residents at Canterbury Woods’ newest location at Gates Circle in Buffalo!
Michael, a licensed real estate broker and member of the Olear Team at MJ Peterson, was chosen to speak on the panel because of his years of experience in helping older adults and their families in making these transitions. His unique background in both real estate and social work has enabled him to guide hundreds of home sellers through life’s transitions since he first began specializing in these services in 2000.
The Olear Team has decades of experience in meeting the real estate needs of Western New York residents. Please visit olear.com to learn more about the team’s work assisting senior citizens and their families. 

When dealing with seniors, when is the right time to discuss selling the homestead?

Is your mom, dad or a close friend or relative living alone in a house that no longer fits his or her needs? The need for a housing change is often reflected in the physical changes that are part of the normal aging process. 
For example, has carrying laundry up and down the basement stairs become a difficult task? Has it become a challenge to climb a stepladder to change a lightbulb, change the batteries in smoke detectors or perform routine home maintenance? As time passes, these tasks become more difficult and thus increase the odds of a fall-related injury.
While it can be difficult to say goodbye to the homestead, the transition may be easier if it is approached as a new and exciting chapter in an ever-changing life. When discussing a housing change with a senior friend or relative, the key is to point out how they can live much more comfortably in a setting that’s free of the demands that come with owning a house.
In addition to offering a safer environment, senior housing generally includes a floor plan focused on the necessities — kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. In a house, there are often three or more rooms that the senior no longer uses or needs.
If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, you may want to contact a geriatric care manager to help sort through the many choices available to seniors and provide professional support. You can also contact your neighborhood senior center to see if they offer age-related classes and seminars on the housing topic.
A happier and healthier lifestyle for an older adult might begin with a simple conversation!
The four components for downsizing

The four components for downsizing

The answer is assessment, examine solutions, declutter and have a written plan. Can you guess the question?

In reality, it’s a question that all of us will one day ponder: When does life require a move to a smaller, safer living space?

Whether that question is being asked by you or a loved one, at some point we all have to stop and look at our long-term comfort and safety. While some people may look forward to the concept of downsizing as they age, others find it extremely difficult to give up the old homestead. Following are four areas to consider in the decision-making process:

• Assessment: Take an honest look at your home and how much of it you actually use. Are you living in a six-room house but only use the kitchen, living room and bedroom on a regular basis? Are the stairs becoming difficult to navigate? Is your home somewhat isolated from family and friends? Assess your living situation honestly by recording your daily activities over an extended period of time. The results may surprise you!

• Examine solutions: If remaining in your home is no longer the best choice, what are your alternatives? There are many options such as a retirement community, condo, apartment or just a smaller house. At this point, it’s crucial to consider your finances and think long term.

• Declutter: Removing possessions that you no longer use can make any home feel free of obstructions and easier to manage on a daily basis. Go through a different room each week and decide if there’s anything that can be sold, donated or disposed of.

• Written plan: Keep a notebook and have a written action plan that helps serve as a timeline for your future. Set some simple goals, such as clean out the garage, interview Realtors or visit apartments. Writing things down can help ease fears and create energy.

By following these four steps, you can take a lot of the stress out of downsizing!