Problematic Assets in Planning and Estates

By David Hood
Partnership Chair

By Kimberly Whitley

Certain types of assets routinely cause issues in estate planning and administration. The issues and suggested solutions are detailed below:

  1. Mobile Homes. Frequently, clients transfer mobile homes by executing a Bill of Sale rather than transferring the Certificate of Title for the mobile home. Unless a mobile home has been legally affixed to the real estate through an affixation process with the Register of Deeds, the mobile home remains personal property and has a Certificate of Title through DMV. Failure to transfer the Certificate of Title to a new owner creates title problems which are often expensive to correct.
  2. Cemetery Plots. In estate administration, excess cemetery plots are often ignored, thereby creating a problem for future generations. Any excess cemetery plots should be identified and transferred to heirs or sold as a part of the estate administration process. City cemeteries often have extra requirements for compliance, including approval of transfers by the City Council.
  3. Shares in Insurance Companies. Many insurance companies (MetLife being a prime example), have not only an insurance component but also an ownership component. When someone dies, the shares in the company must be transferred to the heirs, even if the life insurance proceeds have already been distributed. Many times, the heirs do not investigate the actual underlying ownership in the company, such that the estate must be re-opened later when dividend checks payable to the deceased begin to arrive.
  4. Assets in Other Counties. An estate proceeding in the county of residence in North Carolina does not pass title to real estate owned in other counties. Certified copies of the estate filings in the home county must be filed under a new estate file number in the other county to pass title to real estate.
  5. Timeshares. A timeshare can be personal property or real property, depending on whether the ownership interest is created by a deed or by a certificate. Timeshare interests are best held either with right of survivorship or in a living trust. Many companies will allow an individual to name beneficiaries of the timeshare interest when the holder dies. In any event, it is important to have the timeshare interests transferred upon death to avoid title issues later.

*DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only. It is not intended as a source of legal advice, and no information provided should be considered or relied upon as legal advice on any specific matter.

About the Author
David W. Hood, Partnership Chair of the Firm, is a trial attorney in a wide-ranging civil practice with over 200 jury trials to his credit. His concentrations include Business Disputes, Construction Law, Personal Injury and Collections. He is also a certified mediator, helping to settle cases pending in both state and federal court. He recently finished his term as President of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, the organization for lawyers representing business interests in civil litigation. Mr. Hood has spoken to lawyers and industry groups on such topics as evidence rules, contractor liens on real estate and contract funds, underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage, litigation ethics, and real estate claims.