My mother wanted her home with my two brothers. They said I could live there rent free if I pay taxes and maintenance. Is that a good idea?

By Quentin Fottrell

“How were they going to pass the house on to me?”

Dear Quentin,

My father predeceased my mother and she inherited their second home. My mother bequeathed house and property to my youngest brother and eldest brother. None of them are able to look after the house or the property and have given me permission to repair it and live there.

The deeds are still in my parents names and my brother has a copy of the will stating his ownership. How are they going to pass the house on to me? I don’t want to pay back taxes and put thousands of dollars down and then have no claim on the property. Thank you for your advice.


Dear daughter/sister,

Your question contains some troubling assumptions. You assume that your brothers will simply stop claiming the property for you and/or convince your mother to give you the property before she dies. It is highly unlikely that they will do so afterwards. I have stacks of Moneyist letters that would testify to that result.

If you cannot afford to buy a home today, and it is cheaper to live in this home now and/or after your mother’s death, then do it. It would help you save for your retirement and perhaps allow you to build a nest egg against a down payment on your own house. But don’t count on your brothers giving you the house.

The best course of action: Your mother amends her will and/or signs a death deed, meaning that the house becomes yours after she passes away. That is, if your brothers were also willing to agree to this, and there is nothing in your letter to suggest that they would support such an action.

A transfer deed works in the same way as a beneficiary on a bank account or insurance. One of the most important aspects is that it avoids probate – the public accounting of your mother’s assets and liabilities – because the house is transferred to you on her death.

It would have the added benefit of giving you a “step-up in basis” on capital gains taxes. This means that the profit from any future sale of the house will be calculated as the sale price minus the latest assessed/market price of the home — and not on your parents’ original purchase price.

Obviously, you should consult a trust and estate attorney before finalizing a decision, and talk openly about this dilemma with your mother and brothers. But don’t spend money on taxes and renovations in the belief that your brothers and/or mother will take care of the house for you. That would be a very big mistake.

In the meantime, I have a question for you: Why does your mother leave only your brothers in this home? Will she leave you other assets instead? That’s a question you could certainly ask your mother. Of course she can do what she wants with her estate, but it would seem fairer if she included all three children in her will.

Check out Moneyist’s private Facebook group where we look for answers to life’s toughest money questions. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more about or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

Moneyist regrets that he cannot answer questions individually.

By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story or versions of it in all media and platforms, including through third parties.

Also read:

My son’s wife got pregnant by a registered sex offender which delayed their divorce. He pays child support for this child. What now?

‘Am I the world’s biggest fool?’ I married my husband after being together for 25 years. Now he wants a divorce. I am left with nothing. What can I do?

‘I hugged him. All I felt was bones: My 90-year-old father and my abusive mother are getting divorced. I’ve already fired four lawyers. How do I find a good lawyer?

-Quentin Fottrell


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

11-17-22 1420ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Leave a Reply