“Tenants in common” ownership in a will, our appraisal came up short


The cottage may be grouped with other assets in your estate and funnelled down through your spouse or other beneficiaries.

Dear David,

My Brother and I own our cottage as tenants in common. We have not included our wives in the ownership, even though they are our beneficiaries. If one of us were to die, would that brother’s half stay with their estate and not go to the surviving spouse? – LOOKING AHEAD

DEAR LOOKING: As with most legal scenarios, I recommend you connect with your lawyer to make sure your will is clear about how your important assets should be dispersed.

If your will speaks directly to the issue of cottage ownership, this will determine where the cottage goes. If there are no specific instructions in this regard, the cottage may be grouped with other assets in your estate and funnelled down through your spouse or other beneficiaries. If this happens, it may be difficult to settle your estate without liquidating the property.

It sounds like this is a family cottage. Many such properties end up being passed down from one generation to the next. To ensure everyone’s wishes are respected, I suggest you involve your brother in the conversation and lay out a plan to ensure the cottage transfers as intended if one (or both) of you pass away.

PRO TIP: Make sure your will is clear about how individual assets are to be handled. A will is not a “set it and forget it” document, but something that should be updated regularly as life circumstances change.

Dear David,

We bought a house in multiple offers last month. The appraisal came in $40 thousand below what we paid, and the sale is supposed to close in 60 days. What do we do? – COMING UP SHORT

DEAR SHORT: Don’t panic. With 60 days until closing, you have a couple of options.

Have your Realtor or mortgage specialist ask if it’s possible to do another appraisal as you get closer to your closing date. As our market continues to rise, a new appraisal may go up proportionally and end up being closer to the purchase price (though you may have to pay out of pocket for this service).

I also recommend coming up with a “Plan B” to cover the shortfall, since you’ll be on the hook for any funds the bank is unwilling to finance. This could mean looking at a different financial institution, or another means of alternative financing.

We recently had a client whose appraisal came back low, but the appraiser based it on comparable sales that were five months old (the market changed dramatically in that time). If your Realtor feels there is any question about the comparables in your appraisal, have them verify which sales were used and provide updated data if necessary.

PRO TIP: If you are purchasing without a financing clause, make sure your financial ducks are in a row and avoid spending to your maximum. An experienced Realtor should be able to gauge whether your purchase price is in line with market value, but just in case, it never hurts to have a backup strategy. #AskDavid #Advice