AFFTON (KMOV.com) - Donald Eckhard has lived in a modest Affton home for 54 years.

"We moved when I was 2 years old, a week before my second birthday," said Eckhard.

For Eckhard, it's the only home he's ever known, his parents bought it with no mortgage in 1963. But, just because the house is paid off, that does not mean life is easy for Eckhard.

As he describes, "I'm not of legal mind, kind of a rock and a hard place."

James Sedwick is a friend of Eckhard's.

He said, "Don was in a terrible accident when he was 18 and has a brain injury."

Lately, Sedwick has been helping Eckhard navigate a paperwork nightmare. In August 2017, Eckhard's home was sold in a St. Louis County tax sale.

Under the current law, once a home is sold the homeowner has one year to redeem it by paying all taxes and penalties in full. When they reached out to News 4, the one year deadline was closing in fast.

As Sedwick described, he was "trying to do everything we can to help him save this house."

Eckhard's disability payment is only $490 a month but his failure to pay taxes isn't because he doesn't have the money. Instead, he doesn't have access to his money.

"When his aunt passed away he was supposed to be beneficiary of her estate," said Sedwick.

But, because of an easy-to-avoid mistake that didn't happen. Donald is an only child and in 1991 his father died, so his mother, Mary, set up a revocable living trust.

Mary appointed her sister Sarah to be her power of attorney, a job that included making sure Donald's needs were taken care of.

A few years ago Donald's mom died. Things were fine until Aunt Sarah developed Alzheimer’s and also died.

Unfortunately for Donald, there was no longer a living trustee to take care of the money.

Kurtis Searcy, a senior vice president with US Bank, sees plenty of complex situations after death but says they can be avoided.

He told News 4, "Make sure beneficiary designations are up to date, that's absolutely key."

In Donald's case the situation is more complex because of his disability but Searcy says there are safeguards.

"One of the things you might consider is a special needs trust being set up for that person where you appoint a corporate trustee or institution like US Bank or individual family member to administer assets and take care of that individual throughout their lifetime," Searcy said.

Lacking a trustee, Donald had no access to his money including a CD at US Bank.

With the deadline to keep his house approaching, his friend James called an attorney. He petitioned to become Donald's trustee and it worked.

James had some experience helping out in these types of situations as he runs a home healthcare company, Home James at Your Service.

As the newly appointed temporary trustee, Sedwick was able to access money intended for Donald. They paid back taxes that were due and were able to save the home he has lived in almost his entire life.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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