Amidst the housing affordability crisis across the country, thoughtful planning for what becomes of our homes when we die has the potential to generate a spiral of good for our families—and even our wider communities. Here’s the inspiring choice an 81 year old Californian has made, allowing her to age in place while ensuring homes for others too.
Do Good, Feel Good
As Yahoo Finance reports, before California’s Marin County became home to Silicon Valley transplants with deep pockets, it was full of cattle ranches—and affordable homes. As property values have skyrocketed, affordability has plunged, making the mission of the Community Land Trust of West Marin (CLAM)—ensuring affordable housing for low and middle income residents—critical. An innovative estate planning solution from CLAM turns out to be just what some residents, like Bobbi Loeb, needed. Now 81, Loeb has long lived in the area, and though her home value is over one million dollars, she can no longer afford the upkeep on the property and it’s rental units, which she has committed to keep available to tenants below the current market rate. A new possibility emerged: CLAM bought Loeb’s property for half of it’s market value. How does this actually help Loeb? Here’s how:
She’s the first participant of the trust’s age-in-place initiative, which lets longtime homeowners stay in their homes while the trust takes over their upkeep. When Loeb dies, CLAM will turn the property into affordable housing units…“There will be three affordable units,” says Loeb. “That makes me feel happy.” Loeb says that aging in place is a big deal when you’ve lived in a community as long as she has. She remembers people asking her why she didn’t just sell the property for what it was worth. “And where would I live?” was her response. “I would have to leave here.”
When CLAM acquires a property, the organization can decide to either sell or rent it as affordable housing, according to Pam Dorr, the trust’s executive director.“The properties stay permanently affordable, and the land under the homes is retained in perpetuity by the land trust, so it’s community-controlled housing,” says Dorr.
A proactive estate plan that attends to our own needs while setting off a spiral of good is a beautiful thing. For many of us, the family home is our most valuable asset, so it is especially important to carefully consider the options for passing it on. While putting our affairs in order, another important decision we make is the designation and preparation of a personal representative to administer our affairs—and see to our intentions—when we die. According to Elder Care Direction, personal representative is generally used as an “umbrella term” for the fiduciary managing the affairs of someone who has died. When there is a will, this fiduciary may be referred to specifically as an executor; when there is no will, the court appointed fiduciary is typically referred to as an administrator.
Despite the terminology subtleties and regional variations, personal representatives, executors and administrators share a common legal duty: they are fiduciaries who must avoid self-interest while acting in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries, in accordance with applicable state laws. Given the significant trust placed in fiduciaries, they are often required to secure bonds guaranteeing their faithful performance. As a leading national bond provider, Colonial Surety helps personal representatives, executors and administrators in every state quickly and affordably obtain their bonds. The steps to obtaining a bond with Colonial are easy: get a quote online, fill in the information, and enter a payment method. Print or e-file the bond from anywhere, anytime.
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Duties of a Personal Representative?
Serving as a personal representative is not a ceremonial honor—a commitment of time and diligence is necessary. Lawyers remind us that it can take up to 18 months to settle an estate (though expedited state probate processes can help). There are forms, deadlines, and to-do lists to attend to when a loved one dies. Even fairly ordinary tasks like cancelling the utility bills require careful attention. FindLaw offers this summary of the duties of a personal representative:
- Preserve and inventory…assets and get appraisals
- Identify and send notice to creditors and beneficiaries of the estate plan
- Set up a bank account for the estate to collect and disburse funds
- Manage, sell, or transfer your assets and investments, including real estate
- Continue, sell, transfer, or close your business if you own one
- File a final accounting for the probate court and a final income tax return with the IRS
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