DEAR BOB: My mother-in-law recently passed away. My husband and his sister recently went to a lawyer and were notified that she is still considered a co-owner of the house despite her passing. How can this be? Her will says the two children (my husband and his sister) are to split everything 50-50 –Joanne K.

DEAR JOANNE: When a real estate owner dies, the title to the realty he/she owned before death remains in his/her name. To transfer title, action must be taken. Change of title is not automatic.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

If your mother-in-law held title to her house and other major assets in her revocable living trust, it would be a simple matter for title to be transferred by the successor trustee (such as your husband or his sister) to whomever is designated in the living trust to receive each asset.

You said your late mother-in-law left a written will giving her properties to her two children, your husband and his sister. To transfer title, the will’s executor must petition the local probate court to distribute the estate assets according to the terms of the will.

The probate court will make certain the deceased’s creditors are first paid from the estate assets. In most situations, this can take six months to several years, depending on complications of the estate.

Your husband and his sister should consult a local probate attorney in the county where your late mother-in-law resided to pay her creditors and transfer title to her house according to the terms of her will. Those costs and delays could have been avoided if she had a revocable living trust.


DEAR BOB: We are active-duty military who made a mistake in taking out a second mortgage on our house at 15.5 percent interest. We have paid the payments for 15 years. The house has been on the market for sale the last six months. We have never defaulted on either our first or second mortgages. Should we combine these two mortgages? Or should we continue trying to sell this house, which is located in North Carolina? We really want to get rid of this house and have not purchased another house at our new location –Santana C.

DEAR SANTANA: Unless you have plans to return to the vicinity of that house, get it sold. My understanding is the market for houses in most North Carolina cities is quite good, especially near military bases, which are expanding.

Perhaps you have the house listed with a “bad agent” who isn’t using “due diligence” to get it sold quickly. Or maybe your asking price is too high. That is the most frequent reason a house doesn’t sell within a reasonable time.

Hopefully, you have the house rented to produce rental income. Ask your tenants if they would like to buy their home. They are your most logical buyers.


DEAR BOB: I lived with a man for 28 years in a common-law marriage, which is not recognized in the state where we lived. Seventeen years ago we bought a house together. Our relationship ended on Dec. 17, 2004. He never came back to reside. I continued the house’s upkeep. Now he wants more than half of the house’s current value. I said “no way.” It looks like we will have to go to court to settle. Are there any avenues I can take, as I don’t want to give up the house or pay his outrageous price? I am willing to offer him half of the appraised value. But I understand the judge can order the house to be auctioned. I don’t want this to happen. What can I do? –Sharon S.

DEAR SHARON: Please consult a local real estate attorney. If both names are on the title, either co-owner can file a partition lawsuit to force the sale of the house. However, the partition sales proceeds will be divided 50-50. Maybe when your ex-boyfriend realizes this, he will let you buy out his half of the house in return for a quitclaim deed. If you have good income and good credit you can probably refinance the mortgage to obtain the cash to buy him out.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “Five Easy Ways to Buy Your Home and Investment Property for Nothing Down,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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