Sugar Land, TX asked in Estate Planning and Real Estate Law for Texas

Q: Adult son lived in home when father passed. All was left to son. He refi'd home, but stepmom of 2 mos refuses to leave

Property is in sons name. She says she doesn't have to move out due to widows rights. How is this fair? He wants to marry and have his own wife move in with him. Son is responsible to pay the mortgage but stepmother gets to live there free? Why is the financial burden on the son? She won't pay utilities or taxes on the home.

1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Frisco, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: A surviving spouse is entitled to no less than a life estate in any property used as a homestead by the deceased spouse in Texas. She is also entitled to all exempt personal property and to an allowance from the decedent’s estate for one year. This is fair because it provides for the widow to have a place to live, to continue using the exempt personal property like household furniture and appliances, and to reasonable living expenses for one year from her husband’s estate.

The State of Texas as a matter of policy makes these provisions for the spouses of decedents, and other provisions for their minor children, so that widows and children do not become dependent upon the welfare of the State for basic support.

Adult children are in the prime of their worklife and are mature and capable enough to support themselves and their families. Decedents are free to leave other money and items they own to their adult children by Will if they like.

The son was not obliged to refinance the mortgage, and most attorneys would have advised him not to do so. He chose to take on that liability which he has every right to do to preserve his remainder interest in the home and to help support his stepmother. It is fair to expect him to live up to his commitment to the mortgage company.

If stepmother doesn’t want to pay taxes, she may do so as she is not personally obligated to pay them, but she risks the taxing authorities foreclosing in a tax foreclosure. The son could bid on the property in a tax foreclosure sale, or could just wait and receive his share of any proceeds as the remainder owner.

If stepmother doesn’t want to pay utilities, she risks them being cut off. Son is not obligated to switch the utilities into his name or to make payments on the utilities if he does not choose to do so.

Stepmother also has the financial obligation to maintain the home during her life so that it is not is disrepair when it passes to the son at her death.

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