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Jonathan Craig Reed
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Jonathan Reed’s Answers

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  • Does a deed filed as "Husband and Wife" have to go through probate in a community property state (after one spouse dies)?

    We are trying to sell a house in a short-sale, but the original deed was improperly recorded in 2002 as "Mary and Jim ---, Husband and Wife" instead of "Mary and Jim ---, Joint Tenants". The title company that did the recording has shredded the or...

    Jonathan’s Answer

    This can be an expensive error. Even if the property is deeded to Mary and Jim, Husband and Wife, as Community Property, it is not in joint tenancy. For purposes of getting the value of the property down to qualify for a cheaper and quicker probate proceeding, and to reduce attorneys fees, it can sometimes be argued that in your example, only Jim's half has to be probated and all of Jim's half is community property, so arguably, only 1/4 of the value of the property has be probated. I've never tried this argument but where the husband dies being the 100% record owner I can often argue that it was community property so only half of the value of property needs to be probated.

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  • Who is entitled to a insurance policy after passing?

    I have taken over legal guardianship of my cousin after the passing of my aunt. I recently found out my aunt left her daughter an insurance policy thru her work. When I called and spoke to the company they advised me that all correspondence ...

    Jonathan’s Answer

    If the insurance policy has a named beneficiary who is alive, that named beneficiary can claim the policy by sending in a death certificate. If the insurance policy does not have a named beneficiary who is still alive, the insurance policy belongs to the estate.

    For privacy reasons the ins. co. will not state who the beneficiary is, except to a court appointed personal representative such as an Executor or Administrator. However, if you think you might be the beneficiary you can bypass the Executor or Administrator by sending in a death certificate and claiming you are the beneficiary. If you are, the ins. co. should send you the money. If you are not, they won't. Unfortunately, if the paperwork gets lost within the ins. co., they probably won't talk to you. Therefore, if you think you are the beneficiary, call first to find out exactly where to send the death certificate. The death certificate will cost you $20 or $27 and involve some hassle in getting it, so unless there is a reason not to, going thru the executor is easier.

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  • Looking for a personal Injury attorney with experience in probate/distribution of assets.

    I am trying to find an attorney that can handle a personal injury case with experience in probate/distribution of assets in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    Jonathan’s Answer

    You will find some lawyers in this forum who practice in both areas.

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  • Dad died several years ago. No assets in his name, all belong to mom. Will not filed with court yet. Is that a problem?

    My siblings were left nothing in dad's will, everything went to mom. All assets are in her name and retirement accounts show her as beneficiary. Are there going to be any issues when the will is filed?

    Jonathan’s Answer

    From the way you posed the question it sounds like filing the will is only a legal formality because everything passes outside of probate to your mother.

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  • How much should it cost me to complete a probate petition in kankakee county for a $300k estate?

    including court fees and law firm fees.

    Jonathan’s Answer

    As a probate lawyer in a different state--I do probates in Nevada and California--I was interested to see how your question would be answered.

    I totally agree that if the probate involves contested issues, it is just impossible to say what a fair fee would be since one cannot know how long the contests will drag out. Sometimes heirs have hurt feelings and don't care how much a fight costs.

    However, if this is a situation in which there are no contests or unusual complications, you should be able to call around and get a flat fee if that is what you desire.

    Avvo.com does not allow lawyers to solicit business in questions answers, so if there was an IL attorney who would charge a particular flat fee, he or she might get slapped down by avvo.com by putting that in the answer.

    However, if the case is truly uncontested and if you have a good handle on what the assets are, you should be able to call around for prices.

    Sometimes, however, it is hard to know what the true value of the estate is. For example, I am doing a probate in Nevada where the executor named in the will said there is a house and a $250,000 financial account. However, once the executor got appointed and went to the financial account, she found out it was payable on death to her and therefore not part of the estate. Unless the decedent had told her, there was no way she could have known this until getting appointed. Fortunately, for the client and other heirs, the executor's fee agreement with me was based on a formula based on total estate assets so she did not agree to pay a flat rate based on a larger estate than existed. (Just pointing out how a client can get hurt by a flat dollar fee.)

    So, yes, attorneys should give straight answers about fees, but it is not always so easy to understand what is in an estate and what will be involved in the probate process.

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  • What do I need to do? Probate or can I do it myself?

    My mother lived in another state and passed away without a will. She owes more on her house than it is worth. She doesn't own a car or owe other than mortgage and utilities. She has around $1000.00 in the bank. What should I do? I do have two brot...

    Jonathan’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Unless you signed to be liable on any of your mother's debts, you don't have to do anything. Her underwater house is not your problem unless you co-signed on the mortgage. From your question it appears that the estate's maximum value is under $1,000. There is no way a Tennessee lawyer is going to be able to economically do any work for you. Sometimes walking away is the best course of action.

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  • Can a house be sold before probate in Wisconsin?

    My father and stepmother built a house in rural Wisconsin several years ago. My father passed at the end of May this year, his will has not yet registered with probate in WI and his wife has placed their home on the real estate market. Is this leg...

    Jonathan’s Answer

    As other lawyers have pointed out the house need not go through probate if titled to dad and stepmom as joint tenants. If the house was solely owned by your father, your step mother will not be able to pass good title to the house until it is probated. Most realtors will not want to invest their time listing a house until a probate is started. Still, it occasionally happens that the sole heir to an item of real estate won't bother to probate until the heir finds a patient buyer. Usually the buyer in that situation is looking for a "deal" and the sole heir is looking to have the buyer help with the hassle of probate.

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  • In probate may I use the sell of a house to settle creditor?

    My dad owned a life policy on an old girl friend she is still alive. He passed and I am the only heir. May I sell the house to settle the estate (creditors) and use the surrendered fund from the policy for other expenses like the utilities, cleari...

    Jonathan’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Sullivan. You will not be able to sell the house or collect on the policy without court paper work showing you are the personal representative of your father's estate. With respect to the house the only way you wouldn't need some court order would be if the house was titled to you and your father as joint tenants or if your father had filed a transfer on death deed on the house in your favor.

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  • Do I have to get a court order to correct her name in the probate court. It is wrong on her death certificate

    it was reported wrong.

    Jonathan’s Answer

    I agree. Go the health district first with appropriate documentation. The probate court judge will figure it is the job of the health district to be the referee on the death certificate facts.

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  • How do I file my mother's will in Las Vegas, Nevada?

    My mother passed away earlier this month, and I am the executor. Probate is unnecessary due to the size of her estate. I do not know where to take my mother's will to file it.

    Jonathan’s Answer

    You can file the will but it will cost you $18 and some inconvenience. If you do file, bring a copy so that the clerk can give you back a file-stamped copy of the will.

    The law says you should file the fill within 30 days of death. However, the consequence of not filing is simply that if someone was financially prejudiced by your failure to file they could sue you for damages.

    Most people in your situation would not file. I once attended a Continuing Legal Education seminar in which a prominent probate attorney advised not filing in situations in which the will would not be probated and other lawyers challenged him for advising violation of the law. It was an interesting debate.

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