At this point the house is not yours, it is your mother's and therefore her estate's. If she had a spouse or other children, you also have to share in the ownership of the house. At some point you will have to deal with the probate of her estate and transferring the home to the proper parties who own it. You say you are worried about her creditors? Do you have reason to believe that creditors still exist, let alone any that might actually have a lien against the house? Depending on the situation and your interest in the house, it may be possible to sell the house, pay any *legitimate* creditors and walk away with some cash.
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/
As an heir, you do not have any liability for the debts of your mother. Her estate has the obligation to satisfy the debts, not your assets. However, it sounds as if the house you are talking about is the house that was your mother's. If that is the case, then the house is included within the estate and can be used to satisfy any outstanding debts. But, if there are other assets, such as life insurance proceeds or other cash, these can be used to satisfy the debts. Even though your mother died without a will, each state has an estate plan in place for you, it is called intestate succession. Therefore, these laws are what govern the transfer of assets upon ones death. Filing a probate proceeding is necessary so that the court can administer the estate of your mother in accordance with these laws. This may also help in your situation because the creditors are given a certain period of time - generally 90 days - to bring a claim against the estate and if they don't, then their interest is extinguished. So, even though you don't want to hire an attorney, it will actually be far more economical for you to hire an attorney than to go without because it could save you thousands. If you qualify, there are attorneys who will take cases on a pro bono basis or you may have a legal aid organization that offers legal services at a reduced rate or sometimes free. Either way, you need help of competent legal representation.
My responses are of a general nature and not having the opportunity to get all of the background may mean that they are not complete. I may not be a licensed attorney in the jurisdiction where you are seeking advice and is based solely on the laws and my expertise in those states in which I am licensed. Therefore, this advice can provide a good foundation in seeking quality legal advice in your particular area.
Both of my colleagues have given you excellent advice. If you are going to inherit your mother's estate, you have a vested interest in seeing that this estate is properly administered, and you are not going to be able to do this by yourself. If there are creditors and no other money, they are probably going to force the house to be sold, so you are going to lose it if you do nothing. You need to find an expert probate lawyer who will give you an initial consultation without charge, or contact the Toledo University Law School and find out if they have a Legal Clinic that can help you. If your mother had creditors and you do nothing, eventually they are going to seize the house. It is up to you to act.
Mr. Huddleston is an Ohio-Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law, with offices in Columbus and Dayton, serving client families and private business owners throughout Ohio. He may be contacted directly by phone toll-free at 888.488.7878 or by email CLH@HUDDLAW.COM. Mr. Huddleston responds to Avvo questions as a public service to help educate and provide general guidance to questioners, but his responses are not legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship.