Vallejo, CA asked in Probate and Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: Do I have to allow a fellow heir to live in a house with a mortgage if they refuse to pay the mortgage, taxes or upkeep?

From California. Mother passed away without a will, and home to be passed to me and my six siblings. I have been paying the mortgage and taxes to keep the house, but my brother refuses to pay anything towards the house. Attempted mediation, but he did not show. Once the house clears probate, do I have any recourse to force him to pay towards the mortgage and upkeep or will I have to continue to pay? I have asked the administrator of the estate, my sister, to evict him before probate ends, but she is refusing even though he was notified, that all adults residing in the house were expected to pay for house and upkeep by the court. My mother wanted to keep the house, and I want to try for her, but I don't want to pay for an adult that is perfectly capable of contributing to take care of the place he will partially own and lives. Do I have any options besides selling my share and washing my hands of it or am I stuck paying for my brother?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in California

A: You are not stuck paying your brother's share, at least not forever. If you can't get your sister to do anything inside the probate case, then after the probate case is concluded and the house is in all of your names, file a "partition" lawsuit against all of the other owners to force the sale of the house. The house will be sold pursuant to a court order and then there will be a court-supervised process for distributing the proceeds. That is where you will ask the court to take an amount from your brother's share to reimburse you for the amounts you have spent carrying his share. Start looking for an attorney now so that when the probate case is over you can launch immediately.

In the meantime, you might want to explain to all of your siblings that if you all can agree to sell the house and split the proceeds fairly, that would be a lot cheaper than paying attorneys' fees and court costs to do what you can accomplish yourselves. Everyone's share in the end will be bigger if you don't have to pay court costs and attorneys' fees. But if you have even one holdout, then you'll have to go to court to accomplish that which is inevitable, and those costs will come off the top.

James Edward Berge agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

James Edward Berge
James Edward Berge
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • San Jose, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: If you want to avoid problems in the future, I would suggest that you demand your share of the estate in cash, and the only way you would co-own property with your brother is if you and your brother are able to negotiate a tenancy in common agreement defining the parties’ rights, duties and responsibilities under the agreement before the probate closes. Without a negotiated agreement before the close of probate, you’re setting yourself up for trouble when your brother fails to follow through on his promises.

1 user found this answer helpful

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