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New Bedford and Fall River Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions about Real Estate and Estate Planning in Eastern Massachusetts

You may not encounter residential real estate transactions too often in your life, and you may have never started on estate planning before, so it is natural to have questions. Attorney Michael T. Friar has been helping clients in these areas in eastern Massachusetts for over 20 years, so whatever questions you may have, he most likely has the answers. See below for answers to some frequently asked questions about real estate and estate planning in Massachusetts, and contact the Law Office of Michael T. Friar in New Bedford and Fall River with any other questions of your own.

The buyer and seller both have real estate agents, and the title company is handling the closing, so why do I need a real estate attorney on top of all that?

A. If you are buying or selling a home, you simply have too much at stake not to consult an attorney to help you with your transaction. Real estate agents can be very helpful, but only an attorney can give legal advice. And even though an agent may technically be representing you, agents still have a vested interest in the transaction that may not be exactly aligned with yours. Your attorney works only for you and has no other interest apart from giving you advice and representation to best meet your needs.

How does title insurance work?

A. A property owner purchases title insurance to protect against loss or damage caused by defects which were undisclosed at the time of purchase. Title insurance protects against forgeries, misfiling and numerous other issues that would not normally be discovered in the closing process. Title insurance can also be used to pay the costs of defending a property owner’s title when challenged in court. Presently, Attorney Friar works with Chicago Title Insurance and First American Title Insurance. Two of the leading companies in Massachusetts.

I am purchasing a property using cash. Do I need a lawyer?

A. Yes. As the buyer, you will be responsible for the closing process as well as your own duel diligence. Your attorney will order and review the title abstract, arrange for the preparation and review of the plot plan with a licensed engineer and order a municipal lien certificate from the municipality the property resides in. Once the due diligence process is complete, the lawyer will conduct the closing, arrange for seller liens to be paid and released, record the deed and other documents and disburse the proceeds.

How does a joint tenancy work?

A. In a typical joint tenancy with right of survivorship, a married couple each owns the house or other property jointly in proportionate amounts. When one joint tenant passes away, the other joint tenant automatically inherits the entire property. This makes joint tenancy a popular estate planning tool, as the property transfers outside of probate. However, you will not be surprised to learn that people don’t always die in the order we expect them to, and a joint tenancy can sometimes create tax problems or disputes among family members that were never anticipated. As an attorney practicing both real estate and estate planning, Michael T. Friar is eminently situated to provide sound advice regarding how to hold title to a particular real estate asset.

What are the requirements for a valid will in Massachusetts?

A. First of all, the will must be in writing. This does not mean the will should be handwritten; a typed document qualifies as a writing and is actually preferred over a handwritten will, which is more likely to be challenged or contested in probate court. An oral will, also called a nuncupative will, is only valid in Massachusetts if executed by a person who is in active military service or is a mariner at sea, and only to dispose of personal property (not real estate).

The person making the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind when the will is made. The “sound mind” requirement is generally met if the testator understood the nature and extent of his or her estate, understood that he or she was making a will, and understood the consequences of the will. Still, a testator’s testamentary capacity may be contested in a number of ways by someone who is dissatisfied with the terms of the will and believes there are grounds to challenge it.

Finally, the will must be signed by the testator or by another person in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction. This act must be witnessed by two witnesses who also sign the will. Witnesses should be “disinterested”; in other words, they should not be heirs or beneficiaries who will inherit under the will.

Get Answers to Your Questions from an Experienced New Bedford Real Estate & Estate Planning Lawyer

If you have other questions or need assistance with a Massachusetts real estate or estate planning matter, contact the Law Office of Michael T. Friar in New Bedford or Fall River by calling 508-994-2500, or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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