The single legal resource every homeowner should have at hand . . .
THE HOMEOWNER'S LEGAL BIBLE
Owning a home is a dream come true for millions of Americans. But there's more to being a homeowner than just finding and financing the right house. In fact, closing on your new home is only the beginning of a long involvement with what is probably the most valuable asset you'll ever own. A multitude of legal issues-including taxation, insurance, and financial considerations-can and will arise over the course of the life of your home, and you'd better be prepared to deal with them. This book is the ultimate resource for responsible homeowners, designed to help you avoid pitfalls and take full advantage of the considerable benefits of being a homeowner. Every vital legal topic of homeownership is covered, including:
• Buying your home, from financing to closing
• Tax ramifications and advantages of homeownership
• Insuring your home against liability and protecting it with security measures
• Leasing or renting your home to tenants
• Selling your home
• Estate planning and bequeathing your home to an heir
• And much more
So put The Homeowner's Legal Bible on your shelf and put your mind at ease, because you'll be prepared to deal with any complication-or opportunity-that comes your way.
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About the Author
MARTIN M. SHENKMAN, CPA, MBA, JD, is a well-known attorney with extensive knowledge of tax law and investments. He is the author of twenty-six books, including The Complete Book of Trusts, Starting a Limited Liability Company, and How to Buy a House with No (or Little) Money Down, all available from Wiley.
Read an Excerpt
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LEGAL,
TAX, AND ECONOMIC ISSUES OF HOME OWNERSHIP
If you're like more than 60 million other Americans, your house is one of your most valuable assets; therefore, planning for your home is a key component in any personal, financial, estate, or related planning. Your house also provides shelter for your family and thus is often an emotional asset. Although houses are such ubiquitous assets, planning is not simple. Because the relevant real estate, tax, estate, and other laws are extremely complex and can have a dramatic impact on your property, your family net worth, and your finances, you must understand the general legal concepts and related rules that affect common transactions related to private homes. Most books written for nonprofessionals give little legal information. Books on purchasing houses address myriad issues such as finding the best home and negotiating price. They don't tell you who should buy the property (e.g., you, your spouse, both of you jointly, a trust). They really don't give you practical advice as to how to review a real estate contract so that you know what issues to raise with your lawyer (and whether your lawyer is really doing his or her job). That is the objective of this book.
The Homeowner's Legal Bible is not intended to substitute for the competent professional advice of a lawyer, and related professionals and experts. To do so not only would be impractical, but would take an encyclopedia-size work that you would be unlikely to want to read or even refer to. But this book will help you work efficiently with professionals to plan better, savemoney, and safeguard your home.
HOW THIS BOOK IS ORGANIZED
To accomplish the important objectives previously outlined and to make the book an easy resource for you, it is organized along the natural sequence in the ownership and use of your home:
- Typically, you arrange to buy the home first. This step includes a host of legal decisions. Who should buy the home? It's not as simple as you think. Most lawyers don't even raise the question. But this book will help you understand the options so you can bring it up with your lawyer and be sure you're protected. The next, and most important, step in buying a home is reviewing the contract. Detailed tips and a step-by-step walk through a sample contract will help you protect yourself. Can't your lawyer do it? Sure, but no lawyer can read your mind. First, you must educate yourself about the issues that are important to you and then advise your lawyer of them. Further, and in defense of the attorneys who handle house closings, consumer competition has in many areas beaten the price for handling a house closing so low that most attorneys have little choice but to let secretaries and paralegals handle much of the work. You can't expect $5,000 worth of advice when you're paying $750 for a closing. The next best thing is to prepare yourself by identifying the issues that you want your lawyer to focus on (the best thing is to hire an attorney who specializes in real estate and pay what is necessary to have him or her focus on all relevant aspects of your purchase). Once the contract has been signed, you have to "close" the purchase of the house, a legal process in which you obtain ownership of the home, pay the seller, and complete any other necessary transactions with others involved in the sale. Chapter 1 walks you through the steps to prepare for a closing, what should happen at the closing, and what to do afterward.
- Chapter 2 focuses on the financing of your home. Many books and web sites address the vital issues of negotiating the best loan and minimizing points and closing costs. However, it is also essential to understand the legal issues that can arise in a loan transaction, the different types of loan transactions, and the tax laws. Read other books, consult with a good mortgage broker, use the Internet, contact a local bank; but you still need the legal information in this book to complete the job of protecting yourself.
- Once you own your home, you have to operate and maintain it. This can include properly insuring it and making improvements: You might need an easement to gain access to all of your property; or you may have to negotiate a contract with a builder for adding a dormer on your house. The tax laws provide many benefits for home ownership. Chapter 3 reviews these important legal operational issues for your home.
- While you own your home, you will want to protect it. Although most protective issues pertain to home security, fire safety, and the like, there is more. In Chapter 4, you can find a discussion of insurance coverage and law, protection of the home if you are disabled, different ways the home can be owned, and other issues that you should address.
- At some point, you might rent out part or all of your home or vacation home. Leasing a home raises tax and other legal issues. Chapter 5 answers such questions as, What tax deductions will you be entitled to? What type of lease agreement should the tenant sign? What provisions should be included?
- Eventually you may sell your home. Selling often begins with hiring a broker and signing a brokerage or listing agreement. Selling raises a legion of tax law issues. Chapter 6 explores these and other aspects of leasing your principal residence or vacation home.
- If you don't sell your home, you might arrange to give it to your children or other heirs, or perhaps a charity. Chapter 7 explains how you can best address giving your home to children or other heirs.
The chapters of this book follow this logical sequence. Throughout the book, planning tips, cautions, and examples help you.
Following most chapters is a "For Your Notebook" section that includes sample forms. Annotations are provided so you can get the most use out of discussing these forms with your attorney (and other professionals when appropriate).
WEB SITES THAT ADDRESS LEGAL AND OTHER ISSUES ABOUT YOUR HOME
The Internet has a wealth of resources to help consumers through the morass of legal and other issues of home ownership. In time, the Web will help equalize consumers with the larger companies and expensive legal system they face. So keep alert for new web sites. For general home ownership issues, consult some of the following:
- http://www.laweasy.com is a free legal web site that offers sample annotated real estate forms, real estate planning, and tax tips. Audio clips address such wide-ranging home ownership topics as mortgage financing (an interview with a bank lender), closing the purchase of a home (an interview with a real estate attorney), estate planning, and home office planning (an interview with a CPA).
- http://list.realestate.yahoo.com is a Web address/portal that provides access to a broad array of home-related web sites and services:
Buying a home.
Selling a home.
Finding an agent.
Home sales prices.
Financing a home.
Rentals and roommates.
- http://usa.homesalez.com provides a broad array of links and services.
The goal of this book is to help you through the legal problems of home ownership, from beginning to end. If something has been missed that is of general interest, or if you have a question, contact us through the Law Made Easy Press, LLC web site, www.laweasy.com, and we'll try to add forms, planning tips, or other items to the web site to help you. Good luck planning for your home.MARTIN M. SHENKMAN
New York City, New York
Table of Contents
Buying Your Home.
Financing Your Home.
Owning Your Home.
Protecting Your Home.
Leasing Your Home.
Selling Your Home.
Giving/Bequeathing Your Home.