In the fall of 2006 my wife, a high school teacher, left for school in a small sleepy town SW of Denver.   Shortly after school began shots rang out and a hostage situation ensued (See Article).  At the end of the day one student and the gunmen was dead.  This all occurred across the hall from my wife’s classroom.  This event is a stark reminder of how random events occur and how they can reshape lives instantly.  Do you have a plan?  As a private lender,  I have seen way too many instances where a spouse passes, leaving the surviving spouse with real estate assets or a business and no plan.  I created a quick 5 step guide for real estate pros to develop a plan.  What should be in your plan?  How is this different than a balance sheet or a will?


Here is an article the Denver Post did on the event:

Why am I sharing?


You are probably wondering why I’m sharing this story.  This event is a stark reminder of how random events occur and how they can reshape lives instantly.  I have seen way too many instances where a spouse passes, leaving the surviving spouse with real estate assets and no plan.  Unfortunately, more often than not, the surviving spouse does not have the skill set to successfully run a real estate portfolio nor the peer group to help them figure it out.  This is where the real estate plan comes into place.  Every real estate pro (realtor, bankers, investors, etc..) that own real estate assets should develop a plan to ensure a smooth transition if something were to happen.  Real estate is not like a stock that can easily be sold instantly.  As we all know real estate needs “feeding and caring” to optimize the value.


I had no plan

Before this event occurred at my wife’s school, I had no plan.  If roles were reversed and something would have happened to me, would my wife have the skill set to run a real estate portfolio, would she know who to call, how would she manage with zero experience?  I’m sure many of you on this list can relate.


Why not use a balance sheet?


A typical balance sheet simply lists assets and liabilities.  This does not provide enough details for someone to successfully navigate a real estate portfolio it merely lists at a very high level all the items someone owns and what is owed.


What is your plan?


I assume most if not all of you on this e-mail are involved in some way with real estate.   Making a modified financial plan is more important than with other professions.  Real estate assets are not as straight forward as stocks, bonds, or other liquid asset classes.  For example, you might own a single-family home that you are rehabbing or commercial properties with multiple tenants.  Real estate is a business. So how do you prepare if disaster strikes and your spouse (or family) is left with assets but not the experience?

              5 steps to make a plan:

  • Start with a balance sheet
    1. First, make the traditional balance sheet. But put a number beside every asset, for each number make a note of the asset’s key information.  For example:
      1. Commercial Building: xxx Denver, CO: This is a 10,000 square foot building leased to 8 tenants, the leases are all NNN (rent roll and operating statements in xxx folder).  There is currently a xxx mortgage on the property with bank of the xxx due in xxx.
      2. You should do this same exercise for all partnerships you have an interest in and other illiquid assets.
  • Provide key contacts for each asset
    1. For each asset above provide key contacts: property managers, tenants, insurance, maintenance folks, etc… essentially everyone someone would need to contact for a respective property
  • Identify the strategy for each asset
    1. Identify the long-term plan for each property. Should your spouse sell it for quick liquidity if needed?  Is the property a long term hold for future income?
  • Overall key contacts you trust:
    1. After completing the 3 steps above, at the bottom of the financial plan, put a list of overall key contacts: life insurance, contacts for other assets, and most importantly who to call that you absolutely trust if there are questions. For example on mine, I have two attorneys, a close friend that is knowledgeable about real estate, and a couple contractors that I know very well that could help out and answer questions.
  • Review with your spouse:
    1. The plan is useless if your spouse doesn’t understand the document. Take a few minutes to go through everything with your spouse to ensure all their questions are answered.  At the same time go through your past your tax returns to make sure you covered everything.

I know the above sounds like quite a bit of work, but not only will it help your family be better prepared, it is a good exercise to put on paper to visualize all your assets.  Each year around the holidays, I pull out my document from last year and look at what has changed and where I am heading.  Updating your plan annually also allows you to reevaluate your strategy and see how the pieces of your portfolio fit together.  I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season and take the time to make your financial plan to ensure the success of your family in the coming year.




References/Additional Reading



I need your help!

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to wire money to your long-lost cousin that is going to give you a million dollars if you just send them your bank account!  I do need your help though, please like and share our articles it would be greatly appreciated.


Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending.  Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.


Fairview is a hard money lender specializing in private money loans / non-bank real estate loans in Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, and Florida. They are recognized in the industry as the leader in hard money lending with no upfront fees or any other games. Learn more about Hard Money Lending through our free Hard Money Guide.  To get started on a loan all they need is their simple one page application (no upfront fees or other games).