Miami, FL asked in Real Estate Law for Maryland

Q: My brother was a joint owner of a house, but passed away. The deed states, “rights to survivorship”

The “survivor” is telling me that because my brother had open judgements, I have to pay for them (satisfy the liens) before he “the survivor” can sell the house. How is this true? The asset (jointly owned house) was not part of any probate.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The answer depends on whether the liens are recorded on the property or, under state law, are implicitly liened against title, so the correct answer is to get a lawyer, do a title search, and resolve title. But, as a general matter, if, under state law, the lien was recorded against the property, like a mortgage loan or a recoded judgment, or accrued against title, like a tax bill or a water bill or a mechanics lien, the lien runs with the land. Title may have shifted outside probate to the joint tenant, but the liens were unaffected, and a foreclosure may still be possible. If the debts were personal, the claim can be made against the estate, but the house isn't in the estate (in most states).

Anthony M. Avery agrees with this answer

Anthony M. Avery
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A: It appears that the Judgments were against the Deceased, not you, so that you are not personally liable for any of the Judgment Debts. Apparently the Liens are perfected against the property, and that survivor takes the whole interest subject to the liens. In this case, the liens were always against his interest in the property from the start, even though he was not the defendant. Since the Deceased's interest in the property is extinguished, apparently you have no interest in the matter, and the survivor is just trying to trick you to pay what are in effect his debts.

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