My mother passed away in March 2013. My sister shared ownership of a town home with her, both names are on the mortgage

Asked over 1 year ago - Wakefield, MA

My mother had no cash asset but has assets in Jewelry, art work etc. My mother left no living will and I am being denied any of her assets by my sister who shared her town home. From what I understand and believe to be true the property is "up side down", owing more than it is worth. My sister who resides there has applied to a mortgage with a lower interest rate, solely under her name ( she filed bankruptcy this past year). What is legally mine? I believe my mother has over $10,000 in jewelry alone not counting her household assets. I don't want to invade her home and take everything but my sister has pretty much denied me anything. There is another sister involved as well but since a heated argument of who gets what is not on speaking terms with me. In fact none of us are speaking .

Attorney answers (7)

  1. Steven M Zelinger

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . You don't clearly state who owns the home or who is on the deed. If the one sister is a surviving joint tenant (joint tenant with right of survivorship) then the home is already owned by her and is not controlled by any will or by the law that controls what happens to property when someone dies (the law of intestacy). In other words a deed with survivorship language supercedes the will. In that case, the sister who owns the home will have to refinance because she owns the home and is the surviving person on the mortgage note.

    If the home was owned by your mother and sister as "tenants in common" then half the property will pass according to your mother's will/the law of intestacy.

    If no one has been named as representative of mom's estate (either as executor under a will or administrator if no will) then no one really has the right to do anything with her property. In practical terms however when dealing with personal property in a home being occupied by a family member you obvoiusly have a mess on your hands. Any child can step forward to administer the estate (if no will) and if there is a will the will has to be produced so the executor can be named.

    This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is... more
  2. E. Alexandra Golden

    Contributor Level 19

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    Answered . The only way of knowing who owns the house is to look at the deed. If your mother and your sister jointly owned the house with a right of survivorship, title passed to your sister automatically at death. The only way to challenge that deed would be to show that the property was deeded to your sister as a result of fraud, mistake or undue influence. Otherwise, if the property was owned as tenants in common, then one-half of the property is part of your mother's probate estate. Your mother's personal property is probably part of the probate estate.

    I suggest you get a copy of the deed from the Registry of Deeds (which may be on the web site if the deed was recently done) and your mother's death certificate and bring everything to a probate attorney for consultation.

    E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are... more
  3. Elliot S Coren

    Pro

    Contributor Level 11

    5

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    Answered . Hi

    The facts are insufficient to give you any meaningful advice. You need to meet with a lawyer SAP. If your sister was on the deed with your mother, the property will be presumed to belong to your sister, depending on what kind of legal title in which the property was held. If there was no will, you are entitled to a share of the non-real estate assets. Hire a lawyer!! Good luck.


    Steve Coren

    This answer does not consitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is... more
  4. Adam S. Bernick

    Contributor Level 13

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Based on the information that you provided you need to have a probate attorney in the state where she died to review the documents in question, including the Deed.

  5. Brian C. Snell

    Contributor Level 15

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I am sorry for your loss. Your subsequent information tells me that 50% of the homes value, minus 50% of the mortgage, may be part of your mother's probate estate, in addition to all of her personal property.
    Since you state that no Will exists, any of you and your sisters can petition the Court for authority as personal representative. It would be best to contact an attorney who specializes in probate. Good luck.

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and have an office in... more
  6. Joseph L. Morana

    Contributor Level 7

    3

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    Answered . Sorry to hear about your recent loss. Notwithstanding anything the other attorneys have written, I think you really need to sit down with a probate attorney.

  7. James P. Frederick

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . I agree with Attorney Zelinger. In light of your additional information, I believe that you need to push to open a probate estate. The home and belongings must be probated in order to determine who has the right to what. It would appear that your sister has a 66.3% interest in the property. You and your remaining sister would each have a 16.3% interest, plus the share of the personal items.

    Nothing will change here until you have a probate estate open. An attorney is needed to property advise you how you need to proceed, especially in light of the fact that none of the three heirs are likely to agree on these matters.

    James Frederick

    ***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ******... more

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