• Fottrell - survivor ship rights - ways to hold title

    From a425couple@21:1/5 to All on Sun Feb 4 11:34:14 2018
    Personal Finance
    The Moneyologist
    My late partner left me with survivorship rights on our home — but her
    son wants to charge me rent

    Published: Aug 16, 2017 4:59 p.m. ET

    This man fears a costly legal battle to live in the home they once shared



    Dear Moneyologist,

    Over five years ago I lost my life partner Jane to cancer. We never
    married, but lived together for over 25 years. Her adult son (Jim) from
    an earlier marriage is the executor of her will; I am next in line as
    executor. Jim has not closed probate and all of Jane’s assets are still
    in the estate. Jane and I owned a house, which I now live in. I am
    paying all expenses for the house, including taxes and mortgage.

    Jane’s will granted me the right to buy out her share of the house. I
    made a fair market value offer to Jim for the house three years ago. Specifically, I adjusted the then-appraised value of the house by the
    amounts I spent on the upkeep. Jim and his attorney haven’t responded to
    my offer other than the attorney verbally telling me I owed rent on the property (yikes!).

    Also see: My wife left me after two days of marriage — should I divorce her?

    So, my living status is in limbo as the California housing market has
    increased the value of the house, possibly out of my financial reach.
    I’m pretty much at wits’ end. I’ve been told by one attorney that my
    only option is to petition the court to have Jim removed as executor.
    But I don’t want to handle the entire estate (which is now terribly delinquent), I just want to own the house free and clear.

    Letters and emails go unanswered, other than vague promises to get the
    probate back on track. I am old and retired; I cannot afford a long
    legal battle.

    Any suggestions on what to do next?

    Pete in California

    Dear Pete,

    Writing to the Moneyologist is Step 1. But you need to take Step 2 and
    resist your urge to avoid confrontation.

    Jim is trying to smoke you out, with passive-aggressive legal delays.
    This will be far more costly to you if you do nothing.

    Firstly, check the deeds of the house to establish whether you are
    (a) tenants in common or
    (b) joint tenants with survivorship rights.
    Tenancy in common has no survivorship rights if none are specified in a
    will, but the latter means that you will own the house you shared with
    Jane outright.

    Taking legal action doesn’t mean you will have a costly legal battle.
    Your retirement gives you the time you need to devote to this. You could petition the court to have Jim removed as executor, citing his
    unwillingness to abide by the terms of the will. To do nothing would be
    far more costly in the long run. Jane’s son is either hoping you give up
    and sell him your share of the home or acquiesce to his demands to pay
    him rent, as the home rises in value and (as such) increases his pay day if/when you need to buy out his/Jane’s half.

    You may have to file a “partition action” to the probate court forcing
    the sale of the home and dividing the proceeds between the estate and
    yourself if the property is not voluntarily sold by the estate (in the
    event you and Jane were tenants in common), according to Patricia Payne,
    a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer. “Also, it may be possible for Pete to
    sue the estate for some (or half) of the expenses of the home,” she
    adds. Jim is betting on your crumbling and taking no action.

    Honor Jane’s memory and her wishes. And don’t prove Jim right.

    (Names of the parties in Pete’s letter have been changed.)


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