If you owe on a home and die before it is paid off, are my children obligated to contact the lien company or can they just keep paying the monthly payments?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If you owe on a home and die before it is paid off, are my children obligated to contact the lien company or can they just keep paying the monthly payments?

My niece died in March and her daughter continued to pay the monthly notes on the
home. Her name is not on the deed. Can she continue to do this?

Asked on December 21, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Louisiana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Legally, paying the notes gives the daughter no right to the home if she is not on the title. While practically, if she keeps paying, the lender may not notice that her mother died or take any action, if the lender does become aware, they could demend that the FULL remaining balance be paid at once (when the mortgagor dies, the loan comes due); and your niece can't get the tax benefits of paying the mortgage; and when the home is paid off, it still won't be hers. She also has no legal authority over the home, so if, say, the lender does foreclose or someone tries to put a lien on the home for some other claim or debt, she can't even defend the case in court.
Your neice needs to go through probate and get the home in her name (assuming she is the only child and there is no will, she will inherit; if she has siblings and there is no will, she will share ownership of the home with them) and, pending that, be named the estate's personal representative so she has legal power over it--this way, it will become hers. She should consult with a probate attorney over this. She should likely keep paying the note in the meantime, so there is no foreclosure, but the attorney can advise her as to that, too.

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