Q: Can I keep the house after my mother died. I was living with her. The only other heir is my sister. She was not married.
There is a mortgage fro $250,000.00 and house is worth $375,000.00. She owed $10000.00 in credit cards.
I want to keep the house. My sister does not want house. I am Personal Representative. There is no money to pay credit cards.
Do I have to sell the house to pay the credit cards? Also, can my sister give me her share of the house? If so what forms do I use.
A: The just debts of the decedent must be paid out of assets of the Estate, before distribution to the heirs. So, the house must be sold or refinanced to pay off the credit card debt. This can be wrapped in with the sister disclaiming her interest (if she doesn't want the value of her interest), otherwise she will be entitled to the money value of her interest in the net estate (after payment of the estate expenses and taxes). You really, really should engage counsel to review all your documents and facts. Answers on this website cannot possibly give you advice to rely upon for your complex situation.
A: As another attorney noted, all lawful debts need to be paid before assets get distributed to heirs. That said, Maryland law requires that debts be paid in a certain order before any of the heirs can inherit estate property. Some debts (for instance funeral bills and some medical bills), may have higher priority than others (for instance credit cards) and in some cases there may be a family allowance or personal representative commissions that can get paid out before the debts.
An attorney cannot realistically say whether a particular asset like a house must be sold without looking at the actual claims and assets in that specific estate. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to assume the mortgage or to refinance / take out a new mortgage to keep the house.
Sometimes heirs agree among themselves that real estate will go to only one of them, and there are several ways to do this. Sometimes the person keeping the house will "buy-out" the others, and sometimes everyone else voluntarily "disclaims" or waive their inheritance. Sometimes the person keeping the house will need to get a new mortgage loan, either to buy-out the other heirs or to pay off the estate debts.
You are strongly encouraged to sit down with an estate lawyer to get help navigating the process. While not legal advice, I hope that this general information helps.
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A: I agree with Mr. Valkenet that complex issues like this require that you get a lawyer to help you. I understand that a lawyer will add to the estate costs, but the facts as you describe them already indicate that you will need to sell the house to pay the $10,000 in credit card debt and to distribute your sister's share to her. Perhaps, if you were asked a few questions and your resources were completely explored, there would be some path by which you would refinance the house or other estate or personal assets to pay off all the debts and your sister's share of the estate. You could explore whether there are credit, life, or other insurance sources you have ignored. In rarer cases, I've seen family agree that one family member should continue to use the assets so long as the next generation got to share in the property. There are far too many variables to answer this in an Internet forum.
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