Demorest, GA asked in Probate for Georgia

Q: Both my mother and step-dad had their wills done at the same time. Which will stands good or to go by?

My step dad and mother had wills done at the same time. My step dad passed away, two years later My mother passed. My siblings and I agreed I take over the payments of the house and I buy them out instead of selling the house. The agreement was if one of the children purchase then we pay what they paid down in 3 ways of 30,000 being we give 10,000 each. My stepfather will who passed away first stated the house is be left to my mother and myself 50/50 neither has no more than the other, equal. I never saw this will until I sold the house 6 years later. Mother passed 2 years after my step father and her will stated to be split 3 ways? If it were to be split 3 ways and if I had 50/50 then shouldn't I have only given them 5,000 in lieu 10,000 being I was already 50% owner? I'm not sure which will should have been gone by or how to even decide what's right?

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: Since your stepfather died first, you should have received 50% of the home subject to the mortgage.

If your stepfather’s estate didn’t make other arrangements to pay off the mortgage, you and your mother likely would have had to refinance to pay off that mortgage, with you and your mother each owing 50% of the mortgage balance.

When your mom died, her half of the house should have been divided three ways. You would’ve then owned 66-2/3rds of the house and each of your siblings would’ve owned 16-2/3rds. If your mother’s estate didn’t make other arrangements to pay off its half of the mortgage, you and your siblings likely would have had to refinance again, with you still owing 50% based on the half you inherited from your stepfather while you and your siblings would each have owed 16-2/3rds of the mortgage based on your equally splitting your mom’s half that she inherited from your stepfather.

Now obviously you and your siblings had the freedom to make a separate subsequent agreement on whatever terms you all mutually agreed upon.

But if we’re playing the game of “what if,” a strong argument can be made that, in fairness, you ought to have paid $20,000 of the outstanding mortgage (66-2/3rds) and each of your siblings should only have paid $5,000 (16-2/3rds) representing your respective shares in the home. Then you, in fairness, would’ve only “owed” them $5,000.

But since you each paid $10,000 toward the mortgage, your siblings paid more than they should have and you only paid half what you should have paid. So it’s reasonable that they are now made whole by you paying them each $10,000 since they picked up your slack when the mortgage was paid off.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account other factors like whether the home appreciated in value or depreciated in value since your stepfather’s death.

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