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April 11, 2008     Cape Gazette
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April 11, 2008

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48 - CAPE GAZETTE - Friday, April 11 - Monday, April 14, 2008 Law gives widowed spouses a break on capital gains Dear Edith: I'm a local real estate paralegal and love your col- umn. Part of the end-of-year tax package that passed in Congress is a provision that allows widows and widowers who sell their prin- cipal residence within three years of their spouse's death to exclude gain on the sale up to $500,000. The rule applies to.sales starting this year. So the new widower who wrote in to your column will qualify for the full exclusion. - M.M.C., RP Dear M.M.C., RP: Thanks for the information, and thanks also to those who wrote pointing out that the widower probably had a stepped-up cost basis after his wife's death anyhow. I usually do mention that, but I simply forgot. Edith Lank Found his own buyer Dear Edith: I'm looking for a little advice. My fiance and I recently purchased a home togeth- er. She sold her home using the same agent who sold us the new house. I agreed to use him to sell my own house. He inspected my home and ran comparative neigh- borhood sales, etc., but I have not signed any listing agreement yet, with the idea of doing some paint- ing first. Yesterday, a friend of a friend asked to see my home. She is very interested in buying and wants to visit and talk again next weekend. How should I handle this? How much should I attempt to do with- HOUSE CALLS out a broker? Can a lawyer take care of the offer, negotiations, other paperwork, etc.? Obviously, the idea of saving money on commission is appeal- ing, but is this the best way to go? Since I showed the house, and assuming they may buy, what role would an agent have? - J.L Dear J.L: It's possible to list your house with an agent with the provision that no commission will be due if the place is purchased by that specific person. Your broker may agree to that. Or, you might offer a reduced commission if the friend ends up buying because, as you realize, you'll still need some help. Finding someone who wants to buy is really just the tip of the ice- berg. Making sure they're finan- ciaUy able, negotiating a written agreement and guiding the whole transaction through" to closing requires time, skill and effort. While you should certainly involve your own attorney, frankly it's expensive overkill to use a lawyer for the work a broker usu- ally performs. Nor would your lawyer necessarily have the same real estate skills an experienced broker would. New law gives tax break Dear Edith: We had a $22,000 write-off from our short sale. It was money we didn't have to pay back on our mortgage. Our accountant said we had to declare this as income. This caused us to owe money on our taxes instead of receiving a refund. I saw your response to this same scenario stating that we do not have to file this as income. Is it possible to forward any lit- erature you have confirming this, and also, how do we go about changing or editing the taxes we already submitted to the govern- ment? - J.E Dear J.F.: Assuming your short sale took place in 2007, you prob- ably needn't declare that shortfall as income. Your accountant may not yet be aware of the new regu- lation on forgiven mortgage debt, which is in effect for 2007 through 2009. There are limitations, though. The property must have been your principal residence, for example, and the debt must have been incurred to purchase or improve it. Perhaps your sale took place before 2007. Otherwise, go back to your accountant to see if you qualify to file a simple amended tax return. If you're still not satis- fied, there's enough money involved to justify double-check- ing with another certified public accountant. Editor's note: Edith Lank will personally respond to any ques- tions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, NY 14620. 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