Two people on the title of a home, mother and son. Son dies, who owns the home. Does daughter have any claim to the property?

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Two people on the title of a home, mother and son. Son dies, who owns the home. Does daughter have any claim to the property?

My aunt put her adopted son on the title to her home. He was paying a good portion of the mortgage and maintaining the house and property. He passed away unexpectedly and his wife and children moved out of the house after purchasing a new home. The daughter is now claiming she owns the house and told my aunt she can’t do anything with the property without her consent. She is not helping with the mortgage nor the upkeep. My aunt was forced to bring in renters to make ends meet. Who legally owns this property and what if any rights does the daughter-in-law have.

Asked on February 24, 2019 under Estate Planning, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It depends how she was put on the title, so your aunt needs to check the title papers to see:
1) If he and she were "joint tenants with right of survivorship" or JTROS, then when he died, the surviving joint tenant (your aunt) inherited his share instantly and automatically (that's what "right of survivorship" means--the rights to the property go to the survivor) and is now the sole owner.
2) If instead he and she were "tenants in common," then when he died, his wife (the daughter-in-law) inherited his 50% interest and is now half owner with your aunt.
If the daughter in law is a half owner and she and your aunt can't voluntarily work out or agree as to what to do with the property, your aunt's only option would be to bring a legal action called an action for "partition" to get a court order that the house be sold and the proceeds (after paying the costs of sale and any liens, mortgages, etc.) be divided between the owners. A forced sale of the home is the law's recourse when the two owners of real estate cannot agree as to what to do with it.


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