Liz Weston: Transferring home to 6 heirs could be unwieldy at best. Talk to a

Dear Liz: We are updating our estate plan to account for the transferral of our home to our six children when we die. The home currently has a large mortgage balance on it. We would prefer that it not have to go through probate, and that any outstanding mortgage balance would not be immediately due.

I know there are various options for the transferral, all with pros and cons. Do you have any recommended best practices for our situation?

Answer: Yes. Discuss the situation with an experienced estate planning attorney, who can give you personalized advice. Estate planning can get complicated fast, and expert guidance is typically worth the cost.

Your attorney probably will suggest creating a living trust to avoid probate, the court process for settling an estate. Another way to avoid probate in many states is a transfer-on-death deed. The deed can be a solution for smaller estates, but the trust allows you to transfer other assets in addition to your home, provides for the administration of your estate and helps you plan for incapacity, as well.

You probably don’t need to worry about your lender immediately calling in your loan. Your mortgage may include a clause that technically makes the full balance due if the home is sold or transferred. While the estate is being settled, though, inheritors typically are protected from these clauses by state and federal law as long as payments continue to be made. Your attorney can provide more details on the protections in your state.

With a living trust, your successor trustee will be able to access other funds in the trust to make the payments while the estate is being settled, said Jennifer Sawday, an estate planning attorney in Long Beach. With a transfer-on-death deed, the heirs would be responsible for making the payments.

Inheritors often can assume a mortgage, but having six people own one house would be unwieldy, at best. Most probably, the best solution would be to have the estate continue to make the mortgage payments until the home is sold.

Dear Liz: My dad recently passed away. He was technically married, however his wife kicked him out of their home three years prior to his passing, making him homeless. Is she eligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits?

Answer: Social Security doesn’t try to gauge how married a couple was. As long as they were legally wed, she could be eligible for a survivor benefit.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at

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