How Long is Probate in New York?

When your loved one dies, the probate process might be a necessary avenue to manage and distribute their estate. Even if you don’t know much about probate, you’ve probably heard that it’s something to avoid if possible and that the time to take to complete it is something people often worry about. Typically, most estates are probated in about a year. However, various factors can prolong the process or can make it go even quicker. Read on to learn about how long the probate process can take in New York.

What is the Probate Process?

Let’s clarify what probate is before beginning a discussion about how long you should expect it to take. Probate refers to the legal process in which a deceased person’s affairs are handled; the resolution of this includes obtaining their assets, paying off debts and expenses, and distributing any of the decedent’s remaining assets to their named beneficiaries and heirs.

Appointment of the Executor

A starting point in the process is the appointing of an executor (or administrator). This is the individual in charge of managing the issues of the estate and probate process. Although the executor/administrator has been chosen by the decedent in their will, the executor must still be appointed by the court. Beneficiaries of the estate can challenge the appointment of an executor, in addition to the validity of the will.

Settlement of the Estate

Once the executor is approved, they act on the estate’s behalf and begin the work of settling the estate. This includes:

Finding assets and safeguarding them
Paying debts and expenses
Paying taxes

Closing the Estate

For this, there is a summary of assets and liabilities, or a final accounting of the estate, that must be approved by the court or signed off by the beneficiaries. Any funds that remain are distributed to the named beneficiaries.

Length of Time it Takes for Completing Probate Steps

Appointment of Executor/Administrator: Approximately 4-6 months
Settling the Estate: Approximately 6-9 months
Closing the Estate: Approximately 1-3 months

The Timing of the Probate Process

This sound simple and most cases take an average about 12- 15 months but can range from several months to up to 3 years. Considerations that may impact the length of process include:

Accounting costs
Beneficiaries try to remove the executor/administrator
Creditors’ claims against the estate
Difficulty with locating assets
Substantial assets in the estate
The complexity of the specific estate
Will contests

Is Probate Required in New York?

Probate is generally necessary, regardless of whether or not an individual had a will. However, New York law does not require it for small estates (estates with less than $50,000 in assets). In these instances, the court will either appoint an executor named in the decedent’s will, or an heir of the descendant if they left no will, as a voluntary administrator. Then the court will issue a certificate for each asset that is collected and distributed by the administrator.

Understand Probate in NY with an Attorney’s Help

With proper estate planning, it’s possible to have your loved ones avoid unnecessary problems inheriting your property after probate is complete. An experienced attorney understands the pros and cons of ways to transfer property and can help navigate the system and use several estate planning tools to take away certain assets away from the probate estate. You can contact one of our skilled MOWK New York estate planning lawyer to help you get started.

Should You Sell Your Home to a House Flipper?

When you’re getting ready to sell your house, there are many things to consider. And it takes a lot of work to get it ready for the market. Depending on your situation, you might wonder whether you should sell to a house flipper, and if house flippers are worth it? There’s no quick answer to this; you will have to look at your specific situation to see if this is a good fit for you. Read on to see what questions you should ask before you decide to sell your New York home to a house flipper. 

Are you Facing a Crisis/Emergency and/or Need to Relocate? 

Maybe you are in the middle of a family emergency, such as the kind where you need to relocate in a hurry. Or you’re in a financial crisis, which means that you need money quickly and aren’t as concerned about a typical drawn-out sale. If any of this applies to you, you might be fine selling to a house flipper.

Is Your Home Falling Apart? Severely Damaged?

Has your home fallen apart? Is it in a state of major disrepair? If your home has fallen on hard times and is in a state of major disrepair, you need to contemplate how this figures into selling it. It will take a lot to bring it up to snuff and to make it marketable. If the structure must be taken down to the bare bones, it’s not the best scenario for a traditional sale and a house flipper might be an attractive option. A cash buyer may be in a much better position to purchase it than someone with a conventional or government-sponsored loan. Of course, even flippers might avoid certain things and may be leery of foundation problems or the need for termite treatment.

Are You Intimidated by the Listing Process?

If you sell to a flipper, you don’t have to do the type of work to get the property ready for market that you normally would have to do, such as staging and making videos and photos available. You won’t have to deal with the process of arranging showings and having people walking through your home. If you are intimidated or overwhelmed by these things, selling to a house flipper can ease this load.  

Are You Aware of the Flipper Pricing Model?

Do you know about the flipping industry standard 70 percent rule, which states that an investor will offer no more than 70 percent of a property’s after-repair value, (AVR), for a house they plan to flip? If a property needs repairs, those estimated costs would be subtracted from that 70 percent.

While this doesn’t assure a flipper a profit, it does allow for a prompt calculation with flexibility for expenses such as taxes, utilities, and other costs that can tear away an expected profit while the property is on the market. But if your home is such that the ARV is so low in comparison to the repairs that are need, then it’s not worth the investment.  

Will your Home Appeal to House Flippers in the Area?

Is the location in a place where buyers want to be? Not being a historic property is also important. Is it capable of rehab possibilities fairly quickly?

How Soon Do You Need to Close?

One of the greatest advantages to selling your home to a flipper is the benefit of getting a quicker closing. If you need to go it fast, consider a flipper.

Talk to a New York Real Estate Attorney

If you’re considered selling your home, your next step should be to contact a skilled NY real estate attorney. Regardless of whether you decide to sell to a flipper or not, consulting with an attorney will help to ensure a smooth transition. Contact an experienced MOWK Law attorney for help with this and your real estate law needs.   

How Can Condo Associations Prevent Violating Reasonable Accommodation Laws?

Fair housing laws at both the federal and state level have existed for decades to protect disabled tenants from discrimination and harassment. For instance, the law provides safeguards, such as the right to have emotional support animals, even for buildings that have a no-pet or no-animal policy. Additionally, besides providing things like support animals in private housing, these state and federal laws apply in the condominium context and oblige condo associations to make reasonable accommodations and/or modifications for persons with disabilities. These requirements serve to allow everyone the opportunity to use and enjoy their property.

Conscientious condominium boards do their best to navigate this complex area of law, but it can be difficult to follow. You want to keep track of what the law requires, who is responsible for the accommodation and modification costs, and how to stay in compliance with the law. Read on to learn how to avoid violating the reasonable accommodations laws.   

Notice Requirements

Under New York law, cooperatives and landlords of residential building are required to provide written notice to tenants of their right to request reasonable accommodations or modifications if they have a disability. The law also requires “conspicuous posting of the notice.” For any new tenant, they must be provided with the written notice within 30 days from the beginning of their tenancy.

Reasonable Accommodations

Everyone must have an equal opportunity to enjoy and use their property, regardless of disability status.  If a condominium association refuses to make reasonable accommodations or modifications, then it’s considered discrimination; this includes both private units and public and common use areas. This means that they must make changes to policies and buildings if a disabled tenant makes a request. 

To determine whether an accommodation is actually reasonable involves a close analysis of the specifics of the case. Generally, the tenant or unit owner is not responsible for the cost of making the accommodation or modification. And it will be something that you have to take in consideration. 

Although the cost of an accommodation is one of the factors, it alone is not enough to make an accommodation unreasonable. There has to be a discernable connection between the request and the individual’s disability.   

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations/Modifications in New York

Examples of reasonable accommodations or modification can include the following:

  • Requests for emotional support animals
  • Requests for more disabled parking places
  • Requests for wheelchair ramps
  • Requests for automatic doors

Discuss How to Comply with Reasonable Accommodations Law with an Attorney

Now that you know what the laws are, you might think that you’re completely in compliance with them. However, there may be a lot of errors on your part. Don’t take this for granted. Get the insight from an experienced attorney on your side, so that you know what to do. Contact one of our MOWK Law attorneys today. 

What should I know before signing a commercial lease

What Should I Know Before Signing a Commercial Lease?

Signing a commercial lease is an important part of running your business. If you’re in the early stages and need a storefront or other physical location, the standards for a proper commercial lease can be a difficult undertaking without doing your research beforehand. And fortunately, there’s more leeway for negotiating the terms of a commercial lease as opposed to a residential lease. Read on to learn about what to look for in a commercial lease in New York.

First Steps

Prior to getting to the negotiation stage, you obviously must identify your business’ needs in relation to the potential commercial space. You should have a good idea about this before you meet with the owner or the real estate agency. Describing the physical requirements of the business early can help in developing the precision of drafting a new lease. 

Features of a Commercial Lease

The rights that are generally associated with a residential lease don’t usually apply to a commercial one. That is why it’s important to know certain things about them before you commit to signing:

  • Who is the entity on the lease agreement: You should know the official party that is represented on the lease because individuals are allowed different lease terms than an LLC (limited liability company) or other business structure. LLCs may pose some risks for landlords, such as difficulties in the enforcement of breached leases for dissolved businesses and other complexities. 
  • Is subletting allowed: As a tenant, you may want to help lessen some risk by including a provision for subletting and/or sharing office space to alleviate the chance of insufficient revenue.
  • Are alterations permitted: Landlords will often include provisions concerning detailed procedures for altering the space and spelling out what superficial and fundamental changes are allowed.
  • Is an escalation rider included: This requirement provides an elevated risk to the tenant, who may be responsible for a sharp increase in rent because of the landlord’s real estate expenses or operating costs.
  • Does it include eviction and/or early termination clauses:  As a new business, the reality of economic sustainability is questionable at best. You may want to propose an early termination clause to the landlord. However, if the landlord wants a similar clause on their end, it could hurt your business. Because commercial tenants don’t enjoy the same rights as residential tenants, you need to be aware of language that makes it easier for the landlord to evict your business.
  • Will there be a personal guarantee: Many commercial leases in New York contain a Good Guy Clause (GGC). This is used in situations where the lease is in the name of a business entity, such as an LLC where the landlord requires an individual to sign a personal guarantee. Here, you can benefit from a GGC because it allows the landlord to release you from liability in case you don’t complete the lease period. It’s popular for start-up businesses.

Get Help with Your Commercial Lease, Talk to a Lawyer

The lease will be the quintessential indicator of your financial obligation and liability, so it’s important that you get things right. If you’re ready to expand to a new site for your business, contact an attorney familiar with commercial leases. Contact us today, so that one of our experienced MOWK Law attorneys can explore the best options for your business.

What Happens if You Don’t Buy a Homeowner’s Title Policy?

You’ve looked over the options and have made your choice: You’re ready to purchase that cozy condo or that attractive New York brownstone. Whenever you buy residential New York real estate, you aren’t merely paying the asking price. Rather, there are many other fees associated with it including a host of various closing costs. As a purchaser, you want to save money and may want to avoid a survey or an inspection as a way to keep down expenses. While some of these costs (including broker fees) aren’t negotiable, there are things that you can sidestep. 

However, many times mortgage lenders won’t allow buyers to do this. A close analysis of the financial information prior to closing indicates that you have to pay for title insurance not only for yourself but also for the mortgage lender. While there is usually no way to get out of buying a lender’s policy, you can opt out of a buyer’s policy. But is this something that you really want to do? Read on to learn more about making this choice and what’s at stake if you don’t buy a homeowner’s title policy.  

Types of Policies

There are two types of title insurance policies, an owner’s policy and a loan policy. The owner’s policy protects you in case there is a covered title defect in your right of ownership. If you need a mortgage to buy your home, the lender will probably require that you purchase a loan policy or lender’s policy. This policy protects the lender’s interest in the property until the mortgage has been paid in full.  

Title Insurance and Ownership Rights  

In order to get a title insurance policy, you will need to have a company carry out an exhaustive title search looking at the ownership history of the property, including any liens that require payment as part of the transaction. When you acquire a title insurance policy, it will protect you if another party eventually shows up claiming to be an owner or claiming to have the right to some other hold on the property’s title.  

First, the title insurance will pay for a lawyer to represent you in a title dispute in court. Next, if the person claiming title is successful and you lose possession of the property, then the title insurance will reimburse you for the investments that you’ve made in the property. 

However, if you don’t have a title policy and someone brings a claim against your property, you could lose out on not only the down payment that you made, but also on all of the accrued equity from payments since the closing, and the value of improvements that you’ve made to your home. 

Get Answers from an Experienced New York Real Estate Attorney

Buying a new home is one of the most fulfilling things that you can do. Ensuring that your right to own the property is secure can be equally satisfying. Understanding the aspects of a real estate transaction can assist you with making thoughtful choices prior to your closing. Get help with this by turning to one of our experienced MOWK Law attorneys who can guide you through this process. Contact us today for more information.  

Top 3 Concerns for First Time New York Home Buyers

You’re excited because you’re about to become a homeowner for the very first time. This can also come with a lot of stress, in addition to excitement and anticipation since you’re new to the home buying process. However, don’t let your enthusiasm make you overlook key issues. Here are top concerns to watch out for when you’re making your first home purchase.

1. Title Concerns: At a given point when you’re in the home buying stage, you can receive a summary of the property. When you get this, be sure to examine the details of the title summary and look out for key information about things like easements, liens, and other encumbrances and exceptions that may restrict the way that you can use and enjoy the property. 

2. Repair Concerns: Repair work is a major area that can involve many red flags. It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to this aspect of purchasing a home.

  • Sometimes property owners make repairs and cosmetic fixes to up their asking price or to get a quicker turnaround for the home sale process. Pay special attention to the actual quality of the home and look beyond the superficial enhancements. 
  • You should carefully inspect all repairs and look for indicators of subpar repairs. Shoddy work doesn’t always indicate that there are major problems that the owner is trying to conceal, but it could mean that there are larger less obvious repair issues that need to be resolved.  
  • Inspect the building and the lot to make sure that everything is completely finished and well-made.
  • Reference all repair work with the seller’s disclosure. If there is information that doesn’t line up with the what’s in the title summary or what you see when you do the physical inspection, you may want to keep looking for other house purchase alternatives.

3. Negotiation Concerns: This is a pivotal part of the home buying process and there are a lot of things to think about before approaching the seller.  

  • Don’t make the mistake of taking it for granted that every house price is negotiable.
  • However, you also shouldn’t give too low an offer because it could turn-off the seller and make them not want to deal with you at all. This may close the door on negotiations even before you get started. 
  • Alternatively, you can just leave this to the brokers. After all, it is their job to attract clients and to work on your behalf.
  • Keep in mind that this may not be your “forever” home and that you may want to sell the house someday. Therefore, you should concentrate on the location and not just fixate on the price. 

Make Home Buying Easy with Help from an Experienced Lawyer

If you’ve followed these steps, you may be able to have a fairly smooth home buying experience. However, there are numerous situations where you can use the help of an experienced New York real estate lawyer. Contact us at MOWK Law for an attorney who is ready to assist you.

Top 3 Disputes that Occur When Buying or Selling a Home

Whenever you form a business connection with someone, you want the relationship to be as harmonious as possible. This is especially true in the buyer/seller relationship that accompanies the purchase of a home. Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, the relationship requires a certain degree of trust, communication, and honesty. Even with the best intentions, the relationship can encounter its share of disagreements. Read on to find out about top three disputes that occur when buying or selling a home and how a New York real estate lawyer can help.

1. Deposit Disputes: A very common dispute revolves around deposits. Deposits are used as a fallback to lessen the blow for an unsuccessful transaction. In general, the purchase agreement will clearly state who has the right to the deposit in the event that the transaction doesn’t go forward. However, if the purchase agreement is misleading, then it can lead to issues. A dispute is likely to occur under these circumstances because both parties may argue that they’re entitled to the deposit.

2. Disputes about the Failure to Disclose Defects: Disclosure involves conveying important information about defects in the property. Some defects must be disclosed, while others aren’t required to be revealed. For instance, a specific disclosure mandated by the law is a disclosure about lead paint. A general disclosure is that the seller is required to tell the buyer about any known housing defects, even if the buyer doesn’t ask about the information. This is one of the many reasons the purchaser of the property should consult with a professional to survey the property before the sale. If there is a defect that isn’t discovered until after the purchase, a dispute could arise. 

3. Disputes about Contracts: Each transaction is a unique situation, and the contract should be drafted specifically to reflect the specific situation involved; this applies to both the parties and to the property itself. However, real estate agents aren’t always good about contemplating the buyer’s and the seller’s needs and tailoring the contract to fit those needs. This can result in issues later on in the process.  

Get Help with Your Property Sale Dispute from an Experienced Attorney

If you’ve involved in a New York home purchase, you should do your best to avoid disputes in the first place. However, sometimes they can’t be avoided. An experienced real estate attorney can be a valuable ally when it comes to resolving a home purchase dispute. Get in touch with a skilled MOWK real estate attorney who is ready to assess your situation. 

money bags on a scale with a house

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for Me?

You’ve watching your favorite sports event or true crime series when you see a commercial encouraging you to get a reverse mortgage. If you’re near retirement age and own your home, you may consider this type of loan. Read on to learn about reverse mortgages and whether it is a good fit for you for your total New York estate plan. 

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a loan for homeowners that are 62 years old or older. This type of loan allows the senior homeowner to borrow against their home equity, as long as they reside in their home as their primary residence. The loan amount is based on the following:

  • The homeowner’s age
  • Their financial assessment
  • The current interest rates
  • The appraised value of the senior’s home

Unlike most mortgages, the reverse mortgage doesn’t require monthly payments. However, you must still pay for property taxes, homeowner insurance, and maintenance. As the homeowner, you also retain title to your home. Deferment of the repayment occurs until the last of the homeowners dies, sells, or moves out of the home. 

Those who choose a reverse mortgage may opt to receive the loan funds as a lump sum, a line of credit, a monthly payment, or a combination of these payment options. Because a reverse mortgage is a nonrecourse loan, the homeowner’s estate and heirs aren’t liable for paying the lending institution more than the value of the home when the loan is due. 

What are the Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage?

There are several advantages of a reverse mortgage, including the following:

  • You can remain in your own home for the rest of life (as long as you pay the property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and maintenance).
  • You can satisfy your need for supplemental income and increased cash flow since it’s tax free.
  • You don’t have to make monthly payments to the lending institution. 
  • You can select the method of loan payments from the lending institution.

What is the Downside to a Reverse Mortgage?

There are several disadvantages of reverse mortgages, including the following:

  • You are responsible for paying fees, including those for loan origination, appraisal, third-party counselor, and loan servicing fees, as well as mortgage insurance premiums and closing costs.
  • You may have less equity in your home to pass to heirs.
  • The loan balance increases over time and interest and fees accumulate.
  • The reverse mortgage may negatively affect your eligibility for government benefits (for example, Supplemental Security Income).

Depending on your situation, you might find that a reverse mortgage is the ideal thing. It depends on how you feel about financial independence and how important it is for you to stay in your home. Also, keep in mind your need for supplemental income and cash flow and your comfort level. Another issue as to if it works for you is whether you have children or other heirs that you want to pass equity in the house to. 

Considering a Reverse Mortgage? Discuss it with an Experienced Attorney

If you’re thinking about a reverse mortgage, then you want to make sure that you consider all your options. Consulting with and retaining skilled lawyers is crucial if you’re considering this type of loan. MOWK Law has experienced New York estate planning attorneys who can help you with establishing your complete estate plan. We can help you break down the complexities of reverse mortgages and help you decide if it’s the right move for you. Contact us today. 

animated attorneys ripping a contract in half

Common Breaches in Real Estate Contracts

Real Estate Contracts: The Basics

Being a party in a New York real estate contract can be a frustrating place to be because of all the complexities of the law that is involved. It can be even more frustrating if the other party doesn’t perform their contractual duties. Typically, when the buyer signs a residential real estate contract, they provide the contract deposit and the contract to the seller’s attorney. The deposit is then placed into escrow. It will remain there until closing, unless a breach of contract occurs. If the closing doesn’t happen, either the buyer or the seller can demand the contract deposit. 

When is a Real Estate Contract Breached?

A breach of a real estate contract can occur when there is a violation of any of the contract terms. The wronged party will be able to recover damages on the basis of whether the breach is a material breach or a minor breach. Although every real estate contract is unique, certain breaches are common among pretty much all real estate deals.

Breaching a Real Estate Contract: Buyer’s Breach

The main task of the buyer is to provide the money to complete the real estate sale. Here are some common breaches that the buyer can commit:

  • Not having adequate funds to make a contract deposit, to the extent that the check bounces
  • Not tendering the balance of the purchase price
  • Purposely defaulting under the real estate contract (for example, withholding documents from the bank, including not providing them with a mortgage commitment letter)
  • Not providing accurate and honest warranties and representations
  • Not coming to the transaction in good faith, when it concerns preclosing matters

Breaching a Real Estate Contract: Seller’s Breach

Obviously, the seller is expected to do certain things so that ultimately the buyer can take possession of the property. Here are some common breaches that the seller can commit:

  • Failure to deliver the deed, or failure to deliver the correct deed
  • Failure to deliver the property in a timely manner
  • Not remedying the agreed-upon problems with the property before turning the property over
  • Not curing defects in the property title
  • No providing accurate and honest warranties and representations

Remedies for the Breach of the Real Estate Contract

Liquidated damages are usually the only way that the seller can retain the contract deposit when the buyer breaches the real estate contract. However, if the seller is the breaching party, the buyer can seek remedies including money damages and specific performance, which in this case, would be the forced sale of the property or rescission of the contract. If the buyer and seller can’t reach an agreement about who gets the contract deposit, then they have to take the issue to court or resolve it in mediation or arbitration.  

Discuss Breach of Contract with an Experienced New York Real Estate Attorney

If you’re dealing with a real estate contract breach, as either the buyer or seller, you want to be sure that you’re getting the benefit of your bargain. The experienced New York real estate lawyers at MOWk Law are here to help you on your way to resolving your issue. They will help you sort out the details and give you direction on next steps in reaching satisfaction. Contact us immediately to learn more. 

hand holding keys hand holding house

How to Execute a Tax-Free New York Real Estate Exchange

Generally, if you plan to make a real estate sale, you must deal with paying taxes. When the transaction involves investment property, you can be taxed on any profits (capital gains) that you’ve made on the sale. However, if you reinvest the money in a similar property within a certain time period, you can delay paying taxes on the property. This property swap method is known as a 1031 Exchange. Here’s some information on how to execute a tax-free New York real estate exchange. 

1. Ensure the replacement property meets the 1031 requirements: There are rules regarding the replacement property that must be met, including the following:

  • The replacement property (in addition to the property being sold) must be for investment or business purposes only.
  • Compared to the property being sold, the replacement property must be similar or “like-kind”, which the IRS defines as “property of the same nature, character, or class.” The rules refer to the exchange of commercial investment property for residential property (and vice-versa) to be considered “like-kind.” An exchange involving a U.S. property for a foreign property, however, is not considered “like-kind.” 
  • The replacement property should be of equal or greater value to the one being sold.
  • If there are mortgages, the amount on the replacement property must be the same or greater than the mortgage on the property being sold. If it’s less, the difference in value is treated as “boot” and it’s taxable. 
  • The replacement property must be identified within 45 days.

2. Understand how the exchanges are structured: The exchange can be performed in a few different ways: 

  • Simultaneous exchange: make a disposition of the relinquished property and acquire the replacement property at the same time 
  • Deferred exchange: dispose of one property and subsequently exchange for one or more other like-kind properties within the required time frame  
  • Reverse exchange: acquire the replacement property where an intermediary acts as an exchange titleholder for no more than 180 days. During this time frame, you must dispose of the relinquished property in order to complete the transaction. 

3. Use a qualified intermediary: To successfully execute the reverse exchange, an intermediary’s involvement will ensure that that you’re in compliance:

  • Their role is to be your agent when you sell the original property and hold the proceeds.
  • Then you will inform them when you identify potential replacement properties.
  • Next, the intermediary will use the funds to acquire the replacement and complete the exchange within the time frame.   
  • After the contract terms are agreed upon, the intermediary should receive copies. 

4. Report the exchange: After the exchange is complete, you must send all copies of the sales and purchase documents so that the IRS will be notified. Otherwise, you would be subject to taxation and this would defeat the purpose of all of this effort!

Talk to an New York Real Estate Attorney about a Tax-Free Exchange

Executing a tax-free real estate exchange requires a lot of knowledge about the intricate steps to perform. You will want to be sure to get information from an experienced New York Real Estate lawyer to ensure that the process runs smoothly. The attorneys of MOWK Law are well-versed in real estate transactions and are ready to help. Contact us today for more information.