5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Add Someone to Your House Deed

St. Ambrose Legal Services has received an influx of calls from city residents who have been advised to add a relative’s name to their house deed. The common misconception is that adding someone to the deed will protect your home for your heirs. Below are five reasons why adding a loved one to your deed is not a smart way to protect your investment.

  1. Loss of control– Adding anyone’s name to your deed makes the other person a co-owner of the property. If you decide to sell the property and the co-owner does not agree, then you cannot sell.
  2. Inheritance by others– If your new co-owner dies before you do, then that person’s interest could pass on to someone else.  You could end up owning the house with one or more people.
  3. Exposure to creditors– Your house is exposed to the debts or your co-owner. Likewise, if the co-owner has tax issues or they are sued and lose, a lien could be placed on your property. A lien on your house could force it to be sold.
  4. Taxable gift – Putting someone’s name on your deed is legally a gift that could require a federal gift tax return.
  5. Medicaid Penalty– If you give someone an interest in your home, it could trigger ineligibility for Medicaid benefits in the event you need nursing home care.

Adding a name to your home is risky.  The safer alternative is to draft a Will that leaves your property to the person of your choice. Seniors in Baltimore City can get a free Will through the Bar Association of Baltimore City: 410-396-5277.

home-matters

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Summer at St. Ambrose: Sustaining Community Connections

For a few days during the week, I work at St. Ambrose. In the morning and evening as I walk to and from the revitalized row houses that are St. Ambrose, I am most often greeted by someone who is going to work, returning home, or unwinding on their front porch. This exchange brings to mind an image of affability that seems to be a remnant of my parents’ generation.

I am always surprised when I talk to my peers, who should feel that life is at its peak, that they truly feel lonely and disconnected. It is the irony of my generation, that with more means of communication than any previous generation, we are lacking an intrinsic sense of connection. As I simultaneously visualize these two generational images – neighbors greeting one another from their porches, verses individuals posting updates of their locations and activities on the internet – it seems clear that the significance of verbal communication and face-to-face connection is eroding. With this erosion of face-to-face interaction and connection is a loss of community.

During the past couple of weeks, I attended several St. Ambrose events. One weekend, I went to St. Ambrose’s picnic at Herring Run Park, which celebrated the revitalization of 137 homes in the Belair-Edison neighborhood. St. Ambrose homeowners and community members in the Belair-Edison area, as well as St. Ambrose staff were able to eat, dance, and socialize. Last week, I joined numerous community development organizations in saying goodbye to the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative (BNC), and reflecting on the work the organization completed in revitalizing and recreating neighborhoods to be safe, livable, cared for, and attractive.

These events are significant because they exemplify the building of community. The idea of community is a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. I am convinced that fellowship is a product of personal interaction, and that these celebrations of accomplishments encourage fellowship by recognizing the fulfillment of shared goals.

The St. Ambrose Legal Department is partnering with Community Law In Action (CLIA), an organization that works with youth to build them into leaders who will help transform their own communities. St. Ambrose attorneys are participating in the Corporate Mentoring program of CLIA. In this program, high school juniors and seniors are involved in many activities, one of which involves site visits to a Baltimore office, once a month. During these Mentor Days, students work on advocacy projects under the supervision of an attorney, participate in conversations with speakers about college, careers, and the legal profession, have mentoring sessions to work on SATs and college applications, and visit Annapolis.

In partnering with CLIA, St. Ambrose is continuing its mission of community development by engaging with a generation of young community members. The attorneys and students interact in a space that reconciles the goals and attitudes of both an older and younger generation. Gaining experience, attending college, and participating in community advocacy is part of individual and community development in the present, but CLIA is also involved in preserving the importance of face-to-face communication, interaction, and connection.

Phillip Westry, an attorney at St. Ambrose and a past director of the CLIA Youth Connection Program, describes the significance of mentoring as, “filling in a gap”. Phillip explains that students are able to gain the information and experience needed to more firmly establish their own educational and career goals. The personal connection and interaction that is also a part of mentoring, founds a base of support, encouragement, and connection, allowing young people to explore with confidence. As CLIA exemplifies, connection and community need not erode with every passing generation, if today’s community leaders and builders continue to include an ideal of affability within and among generations and people.

Summer at St. Ambrose: My Introduction into St. Ambrose

As a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, I am slowly becoming more cognizant of the vast range of responsibilities that accompany entrance into adulthood. The “college life” allowed for an extended period of youth, wherein everything from living and eating, to a gym membership was simply waiting for me: I did not have to figure life out, I simply signed up. So now, as I am preparing to attend law school, get an apartment, start repaying loans, find transportation for navigating the city, buy and prepare food for myself, etc., I realize that I cannot just sign up; I have to figure out exactly what I am signing up for. One fundamental need that adults must figure out and sign up for, is homeownership or renter-ship, as having a secure refuge is intrinsic to subsistence and well-being. I, in my extended youth, have taken for granted the reality that having a space that is a home, is the product of a complex process, and furthermore that the security a home is expected to provide may be confounded by the insecurity that the processes of home owning and renting are disposed to.

Over the summer, I am interning as a legal assistant at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, a community-based nonprofit organization that focuses on providing housing opportunities and assistance to people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. The legal department of St. Ambrose specializes in providing representation for foreclosure mediation as well as advice on legal issues that may be encountered throughout the process of owning a home. During my first few days here, as I have listened to the attorneys discuss cases, witnessed meetings between attorneys and clients, performed intake calls where clients describe their housing issues, and observed mediations in which an individual attempts to save her/his home, my vocabulary has been flooded with terms whose meanings and significance were previously foreign to me. My ignorance of terminology such as foreclosure, mortgage, equity, title, deed, affidavit, short sale, under-water, loss mitigation, modification, bankruptcy, and so on signaled my lack of understanding of what it means to own a home, retain that ownership, and what happens when that ownership is compromised or threatened.

My ignorance of home-owning, could be attributed to a number of explanations, including the naiveté of youth; whatever the cause, however, the basic question for myself and others who are similarly uninformed is, how do I become educated about home owning, retention, and loss, so that I can figure out what I am signing up for? From whom do I learn what the intricacies and jargon of home owning processes actually mean and require of me? Where do I learn what and when I am entitled to assistance or protections? Follow me on this blog series, “Summer at St. Ambrose”, as I participate in the culture of St. Ambrose, learning not only the answers to housing questions, but also the variety of ways in which St. Ambrose influences community strength by helping to form a foundation of informed and stable homeowners.

Bar Association of Baltimore City Hosts 22nd Annual Law Day for Seniors

The Bar Association of Baltimore City’s Senior Legal Services Program is proud to announce that it will host its 22nd Annual Law Day for Seniors event:

Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Borgerding District Court Building

5800 Wabash Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21215

The event attracts hundreds of Baltimore City seniors every year for informative talks on legal topics pertinent to seniors.  This year, attorneys will be discussing: What To Do When a Loved One Dies, and Landlord/Tenant Issues Facing Senior Citizens.  Additionally, there will also be a Medicare Part D update and a round table Ask an Attorneyquestion and answer session for seniors at the event, a “Benefits Check Up” and many resource/referral materials.  Breakfast and lunch provided.

To reserve your free seat at Senior Law Day, contact Jacqueline Jones at jjones@baltimorebar.org or 410-396-5278. Provide your name and number of attending seniors. Group Reservations are welcome. Free Onsite Parking and Handicapped Accessible.

The 22nd annual Law Day for Seniors is made possible through the generous support of Saul Ewing, LLP, The Health Department of Baltimore City, CARE Services, The Maryland Legal Services Corporation and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc.

Legal Department: Webpage launch & Maryland Daily Record article

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Legal Services launched a webpage on Monday, March 18, 2013 that allows clients to complete intake securely online (click above image).

There are exciting things happening in St. Ambrose’s Legal Services program.  On Monday, March 18, 2013 two things occured.  The program launched a new webpage which allows people facing a legal problems to send a question and complete intake securely online.  This was made possible by a grant from the Baltimore Bar Foundation.

Also on Monday, the Legal Department was featured in the Maryland Daily Record in an article by Joe Surkiewicz [Full Article: Subscriber Access Required].  Legal Director Jeanette Cole and Executive Director Gerard Joab were interviewed and quoted in the story:

Getting the legal program on track is Jeanette Cole, who joined St. Ambrose last year as director of legal services.

“The plan is not only to address foreclosure head-on, but to assist people before the problems lead to foreclosure — such as with consumer debt and credit reports,” Cole said. “When people are in financial distress, an appointment to see a lawyer is not always a priority, or even a hurdle they think they have to deal with. So it pays to be proactive. And it helps to have housing counselors, who the clients see first and are often referred to a lawyer here.”

Currently, Cole has one staff attorney and is in the process of hiring another. “We’re going out into the community, working with community organizers and offering a lawyer for free sitting at a desk and talking to clients,” she said.

Preventative issues that can be resolved with the help of a lawyer include helping people get the public benefits they’re entitled to.

Jeanette Cole shared a few recent client stories:

One recent client is a woman who has been raising her grandchild for 10 years. “The father was paying the mother child support, but not the grandmother,” Cole said. “With our assistance, she got the pro se forms and a family law attorney. Now she gets the child support paid directly to her.”

As a result, the grandmother can now afford to move to a safer neighborhood. “This impacts the quality of life for the child,” Cole noted. “That’s not foreclosure work. But it improved the quality of housing and the quality of the child’s life.”

Another result of outreach: “We found a house where rooms are rented and an entire family was living in one room,” Cole said. “We assisted them when the house went into foreclosure. The landlord didn’t tell them! With our help, they weren’t put out on the street.

“Foreclosure is such a final step for people,” Cole added. “Foreclosure prevention is ultimately what we’re about, using housing counselors and lawyers. We help them before things get too bad.”

Regarding the Department’s revamped priorities and intake process:

So far, Cole and her staff are meeting the foreclosure prevention demand. “When people are in distress, you can’t tell them to come back in two weeks,” she said. “It’s important that they know they spoke with a lawyer. We have open intake, not just certain hours.”

The bottom line is direct services to clients.

“It’s important and part of St. Ambrose’s history,” Joab said. “If you need help, this is where you come.”

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center’s Legal Department can be reached in the following ways:

Online: [click here for webpage] or [click here for online intake]

Email: Legal@stambros.org

Phone: 410-366-8550 x249