Q: Mom lives in house in MD and does not have a will. House is still titled as joint tenants with Dad deceased 19-years ago
Four siblings are living in house with Mom. When Mom dies will probate sell house or can siblings still living in house prevent sale?
A: Mom solely owns the house in this scenario. Without a will, all her children inherit equally. Somebody must petition to become Personal Representative of the estate. If more than one petitions, or there is an objection to anyone petitioning, then the court will decide who gets named. The PR must administer the estate per the law and divide and distribute the estate equally. I suppose there is a scenario where four siblings get the house and the other sibling(s) get cash, where everyone’s distribution in cash and property is equal in value. However, it is more likely that the house must be sold, or the siblings who want the house could offer to buy out the interest of those siblings who do not want the house. Heirs can enter into an agreement on how to distribute the estate, or failing that, the PR can make the determination but it must be made in a way that is fair to all heirs. The court will intervene at the request of any heir who objects to a proposed distribution plan. The court can also remove and replace a PR who is acting improperly. If your mother is mentally competent, it would be better for all involved if she has a will and sets out what she wants to have happen with everything she owns and names the person who will act as PR.
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A: By law, the surviving joint tenant (in the scenario posted, Mom) owns the house and when they die the house would go through probate. Occupants cannot stop a sale as any property a person dies owning automatically belongs to their estate. The estate is controlled by a Personal Representative who usually has the decision as to whether to sell or deed out the property, so long as in either case any creditors or other valid debts are paid off.
Two different options exist to keep property out of probate in this state while letting the owner keep control during their lifetime. One option is to do a revocable trust and deed the property into trust with clear instructions as to what happens after the original owner / grantor dies. Another option, usually much simpler and cheaper, is to do a life estate deed where people are listed on title to inherit after the original owner dies.
Often in this type of situation a life estate deed should be seriously explored in addition to a simple Will. Of course, planning can only be done while the original owner is alive and competent. While not legal advice, I hope that this general information helps.
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