Avoid probate and protect your home, without a land trust

Picture this.  Your spouse hasn’t been sleeping well and runs into another car during his or her morning commute.  The other driver is injured in the accident and has medical bills and lost wages greatly exceeding your insurance coverage.  The lawyer for the injured driver says it was all your spouse’s fault, and they’re coming after everything you have.  Can they really take your home?

Or your spouse runs a business, and the bank required them to personally guarantee a loan.  Now, the business isn’t doing so well, and the bank is asking about other ways your spouse might come up with the money.  Is your home safe?

Or perhaps your spouse gets into trouble with their credit card spending, and bankruptcy seems like the only option for them.  You’re making enough to pay the monthly bills, including your mortgage.  But can the credit card companies really make you sell your home to cover your spouses charges?

In Illinois, the answer to both questions might be no … if you own your home as “tenants by the entirety.”

Don’t let the complicated name scare you off (and let’s just call it “entirety protection” to keep it simple).  Entirety protection is a really important protection for married couples, and one that is overlooked by many estate planning attorneys.

You don’t get entirety protection automatically.  But a new law signed last week by Governor Quinn makes it much easier to use a living trust and keep entirety protection for your home.

Why is entirety protection so important?  Well, it protects your home from claims made against either you or your spouse (but not from claims made against you both).  Without entirety protection, a creditor of your spouse could place a lien on your home and might even force you to sell your home to pay off the debt or claim.

Until now, there have been only two ways to get entirety protection:

  1. Own your home together with your spouse, where the deed includes the words “tenancy by the entirety” or “tenants by the entireties”
  2. Own your home in a land trust, where you and your spouse are the beneficiaries

But the new law allows for a third way to get entirety protection—using a traditional living trust.

The keys to entirety protection under the new law are a properly structured deed and living trust (or trusts, if you and your spouse each have your own trust).

If you already have a land trust, that’s great!  As long as your land trust states that your home is held in “tenancy by the entirety,” you don’t need to do anything.  The new law doesn’t change anything for you.

But if you’re not sure how your home is owned or whether it has entirety protection, I can tell you by taking a look at your deed and living trust or land trust.  There’s no fee for this service.  It’s my gift to you to make sure you don’t miss out on this invaluable protection for your home.

As always, I am here to help you and educate you — bringing you the latest developments in the law that affect your family.

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