Can You Transfer Ownership of a House in a Will?

Can You Transfer Ownership of a House in a Will?

One major goal of creating a will is to transfer property to individuals who survive a deceased person, typically family members or close friends. The property falls into two principal categories: real and personal. Real property consists of buildings and land, and personal property includes tangible objects such as jewelry and vehicles as well as intangible items such as cash, stocks, and bonds. Ownership of real property, for example, a house, can be transferred through a will as a bequest or gift.

Transferring Ownership of a House through a Will

Title to a house transferred in a will can only pass to a recipient after the probate process has been finalized. The will’s executor, the person assigned to carry out the terms of the will, initiates the process by filing the will with the local county probate court. The probate judge then authorizes the executor to follow the instructions spelled out in the will. The executor first creates a record of all the estate’s liabilities and assets, then takes care of the estate’s debts, and finally allocates property to the beneficiaries consistent with the terms of the will. If the house has a mortgage, the beneficiary acquires the property along with the mortgage.

Transferring the Title to the Beneficiary’s Name

After the house is obtained, the beneficiary is required to have the title transferred to his or her name. The transfer process varies from state to state, but most often involves applying for a transfer of title with the office of the local county recorder, which usually necessitates paying fees, supplying a certified copy of the previous owner’s death certificate, and sometimes the title to the house.

Since probate can be extremely time-consuming and complex, you may choose to transfer your house in a way that avoids having to go to probate court. Also, depending on the number of your assets, your estate could be required to pay estate taxes.

Bell & Shah Law Is Here to Help

No matter which method you choose to transfer ownership of your house, it’s important to consider the various conditions and possible complications before beginning the estate planning process. The knowledgeable attorneys at Bell & Shah Law, LLC can assist you in creating a plan that will best suit your needs and those of your family. Call us today for a free consultation.

Terms You Need to Know Before Having a Trust Written Up

Terms You Need to Know Before Having a Trust Written Up

Trusts are excellent estate planning instruments when their circumstances are set up properly. However, most people have scant knowledge of trusts and believe their estate has no need for one. In most cases, creating a trust may be well worth considering under the right circumstances, including:

  • If your personal net worth totals at least $100,000
  • You have considerable real estate assets
  • You have highly specific ideas about when and in what ways you want your estate to be allocated when you pass

When reading over a trust document, it can seem like it’s in a foreign language. This is often due to the profusion of obscure words and complex concepts. If you want to decide whether a trust is right for your situation and lack knowledge of the common legal verbiage involved, the following is a brief introduction to some key terms used to write trusts.


This is the person or group that assigns the property in a trust to the beneficiaries. The grantor is also commonly called the “trustor” or the “settler”.


The trustee is the individual, corporation, or combination of the two that manages a trust’s property. They must do this in line with the trust’s provisions. Trusts can simultaneously have several trustees. Plus, they often contain specific conditions for choosing successors to step in when an initial trustee quits, is eliminated or passes away.


The beneficiary is the person or group that gains benefit from the trust. In cases with several beneficiaries, it is not required that they all have identical interests in the trust. In fact, a beneficiary does not even need to have been born yet at the time of the trust’s creation.


The trust’s corpus, or principal, is the property that goes into the trust either at the time the text is generated or at some point after. The income produced within the trust that is not allocated may become part of the corpus, according to the stipulations of the trust. The corpus can include capital, stocks, real estate, or other property.


A trust’s situs establishes the precise laws that the trust must follow. Typically, the situs relates to the physical location of the grantor or the greater part of the corpus. The situs is a key factor to consider because it decides the laws, regulations, and taxes applicable to the trust.

If you wish to consult with a knowledgeable attorney about whether a trust is right for you, get in touch with Bell & Shaw Law, LLC today. We would love to talk about your situation and help make the process easier. Our highly experienced team can help you produce a trust that is set up properly plus meets all of your individual needs.

Should a Power of Attorney Cover Health and Personal Items?

Should a Power of Attorney Cover Health and Personal Items?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal text in which an individual known as the “principal” delegates another person known as the “agent” to operate on his or her behalf. The POA empowers the agent to make either a restricted or a wide-ranging group of legal decisions about the principal’s personal items, finances, or health, contingent upon the terms of the POA. The phrase “power of attorney” can also denote the person delegated to perform in this way.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

In terms of health-related decisions, should you become incapacitated, it is important to have a health care power of attorney (HCPA) in place to allow a specific person to speak with health care providers and others, and make decisions on your behalf about your medical situation, types of treatment, and overall care. It is also essential that your HCPA be highly trustworthy, as he or she may be required to make life-and-death decisions for you if necessary. In Illinois and certain other states, a power of attorney for health care can be combined with a living will into one document called an “advance directive.”

Power of Attorney for Personal Items

If you have personal items that are only in your name, your spouse would be required to obtain a power of attorney of property to take legal or financial action connected with these items, such as putting them up for sale. Power of attorney of property typically relates to all tangible and intangible possessions held by the principal, such as personal residences, valuables, bank accounts, and stocks. The conditions of the contract, such as what can and cannot be administered, are agreed upon at the time the contract is created.

If you’re thinking about executing a power of attorney, contact Bell & Shaw Law, LLC today for a free consultation about your case. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you to formulate a power of attorney that is clear and specific in the powers and duties you wish to assign and that will give you and your family peace of mind.

Times When You Should Create an Irrevocable Trust

Times When You Should Create an Irrevocable Trust

Whether revocable or irrevocable, all trusts involve the following participants: (1) the creator, who composes the trust’s wording and transmits property or funds to the trust; (2) the trustee, who adheres to the trust’s directives, invests funds from the trust, use property from the trust to meet the beneficiary’s needs, and pays the trust’s administrative costs; and (3) the beneficiary, who reaps the benefits of the trust’s assets and/or profits.

Revocable Trusts

If you function as all of these participants, you have a revocable trust, which can be changed or rescinded whenever you like. However, revocable trusts offer only partial protection from creditors and only nominal savings on estate taxes. In addition, they are not eligible to receive benefits from government-run programs.

Irrevocable Trusts

By contrast, when you create an irrevocable trust you are composing a text that cannot be easily altered, and the property transferred to the trust is not in your control. So why would an individual choose to give up authority over his or her assets and depend on another person to administer their money? The times when creating an irrevocable trust should be contemplated are when you wish to (1) reduce your estate taxes; (2) become qualified for government-run programs,  or (3) safeguard your money against creditors.

The Advantages of Creating an Irrevocable Trust

Reducing Taxes

With an “irrevocable life insurance trust,” individuals who contribute money each year to the trust can use this money to buy life insurance that might circumvent having to pay estate taxes when they pass away. Another variety is a “grantor retained annuity trust,” which gives the creator a set income for a number of years and can permit a portion of the principal to go to a family member’s estate tax-free. In estate tax-savings trusts, only rarely can the trustee and beneficiary be the same person, and in such instances, a neutral third party must serve as a co-trustee who can overrule your instructions.

Becoming Eligible for Government-Run Programs

Disabled beneficiaries who are on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have strict limits with respect to income and assets, and if they possess or bring in too much money they can lose these government benefits. Irrevocable trusts can protect income and assets so that these limits are not surpassed. Trustees of so-called “Medicaid trusts” cannot be their creators. As is the case with estate-tax savings trusts, beneficiaries lack significant control of the trusts, so the government benefits continue to come in because the trust funds are not included as the beneficiary’s own assets and income.

Protection against Creditors

Creditors are unable to claim assets from an irrevocable trust. The reason for this is that you lack control of the assets and cannot rescind the trust, so you can’t be regarded as the assets’ owner.

If you’re thinking about creating an irrevocable trust, contact Bell & Shaw Law, LLC today to discuss your case. Our experienced team of business attorneys can help you to formulate an irrevocable trust that is ideal for your situation.

What Do You Need to Be Aware Of Before Creating a DNR?

What Do You Need to Be Aware Of Before Creating a DNR?

A do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) is a legally binding medical order created by a physician at a patient’s request. DNRs are included in patients’ medical records and require the approval and signature of both physicians and patients. DNRs instruct health care workers and emergency medical personnel to avoid cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient stops breathing or if the patient’s heart is no longer beating. A DNR relates only to CPR and does not involve other treatments, such as medications or nutritional therapy. DNRs are generally included in living wills, and their details are most often worked out at the time a patient is admitted to a hospital, nursing home, or hospice-care program.

Possible Side Effects of CPR

By and large, DNRs are written when individuals have a history of persistent or terminal illness such as chronic heart disease that has previously or could in the future require CPR, and the patient wishes not to be revived, believing that the procedure may not succeed and cause injury. This is an important point because even when patients are successfully revived, they can experience considerable harm as a result. For instance, since the chest is forcefully compressed during CPR to pump blood out of the heart, the procedure can cause broken ribs, punctured lungs, and perhaps damage to the heart. Also, after being revived, patients may suffer brain damage due to lack of blood flow to the brain until normal flow is re-established.

Resuscitation Survival Rates

Another factor to keep in mind when contemplating a DNR is the likelihood of surviving CPR. Statistics show that the survival rate is generally 6% to 15% of hospitalized patients, 1% to 2% of nursing home residents, and 4% to 38% for people in non-health care environments. The rates are lowest for people with chronic illnesses, dementia or cancer. It’s also helpful to note that these individuals often experience some type of brain or heart damage.

When a DNR Might Be the Right Option

A DNR may be right for an individual with a terminal illness, such as advanced-stage cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or a progressing chronic ailment. Patients with poor prognoses have a reduced chance of survival and a higher possibility of heart, lung, and brain damage if they do live through a resuscitation effort.

If you would like further information about DNRs or have questions about including one in your living will, the attorneys of Bell & Shaw Law, LLC would love to help you. Call us today for a free consultation.

Things You Can Put into Your Living Will to Be Aware Of

Things You Can Put into Your Living Will to Be Aware Of

Making a living will is a job that many people overlook. It could be due to a lack of knowledge about what a living will is or a lack of interest in thinking about end-of-life matters. According to a recent survey of US residents, only 6% of people in this country have a living will.

What is a Living Will?

 A living will also be known as a health care declaration, is a text that delineates the types of health care you want to be given if you’re in a medical condition that keeps you from speaking on your own behalf. Most combine this with a document known as a power of attorney for medical care. This specifies an agent who will make medical decisions for you in a situation where you can’t speak for yourself. In some states, you can combine these documents into one text known as an “advance directive.”

What Items to Include in Your Living Will

Your living will can contain any of your wishes regarding medical care. For instance, you can decide now if you ever to go on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own. If you have strong views for or against some form of medical treatment, you can convey your wishes in your living will. That way, your family members need not speculate about what you would like to have done.

When planning a living will, you should make sure to include items such as the following:

  • Whether you would like to donate organs, tissues, or your entire body for use in medical research upon your death.
  • What arrangements to make for your burial, such as a memorial observance.
  • Your preferences regarding medical equipment to use to keep you alive.
  • What should be done if you no longer recognize loved ones or friends.
  • Whether your loved ones should give a “do not resuscitate” order if your heart stops beating or if you stop breathing.

Deciding on what types of care you want to include in a living will are a challenge. Most people consider not only their own preferences but also how their choices will impact their family members.

If you are ready to create a living will or have questions about the process, we would love to hear from you.  The attorneys of Bell & Shaw Law, LLC have many years of experience helping clients draw up living wills. Call us today for a free consultation.

Call Now