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What happens to the house if father passed away and the house is owned by Father and son?

San Jose, CA |

My father passed away 2 months ago. I would like to know what happens to the house if the house is owned by my father and myself (joint tenants)? Does the bank takes it away? We bought this house 4 yrs ago. The only debt he has that I can think of is his medical bills, which I am working on to pay off via Medicare. My father did not have any Will (Intestate). My concern: As he owns 50% of the house, the hospital or other parties may ask us to sell the house and give them 50% of the money. Is that true? Any assistance in regard to this question is highly appreciated.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

You should seek the advice of a probate attorney. If the house is joint tenants with right of survivorship, then the house would be owned now by the surviving joint tenant (you, from your description). If you can continue to pay the mortgage you should not have a problem (if there is a mortgage), if you cannot pay the mortgage perhaps you can refinance it. The if house is "Tenants in Common" the answer is different.

As for his debts, the debts of his estate remain that and would not attach to the house if it is joint tenants with right of survivorship. His debts should only be paid from his property (that property that is his alone and which, as I said, may not include the house) so you may want to rethink how you are paying the bills. This can be confusing for someone who has not dealt with it before so go see an attorney now so you don't make errors ,

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:



Thank you, Steven! What is the answer if the tenancy is "Tenants in Common?" After checking the deed, it looks like I am listed as Tenants in Common.

Steven M Zelinger

Steven M Zelinger


It means that 1/2 of the house is in your father's estate and thus if he has no will the house would pass (subject to his debts) to his heirs at law (depending on if he had a surviving spouse and/or children the 1/2 of the house would pass in some combination to those people meaning it may be not just you). In most of these situations they won't force the house to be sold, but there will be a lien against his estate which could eat up half the value if and when the asset is sold. You need an attorney!


I do not practice in your state. However the creditors cannot for a sale without a judgment and your interest is on an equal footing with his ownership. Your probate attorney should be addressing this issue.
Good Luck

Only If and until you and I sign an Agreement for Legal Services, I am not your attorney. These answers are provided for informational and/or novelty purposes


Mr. Zelinger gives excellent advice. You should seek an attorney to review your deed, review the assets of the estate and debts, and help you determine whether probate is required and whether any bills need to be paid.

THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The answer to question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. Mrs. Cook is licensed to practice law throughout the state of California with offices in San Diego County. She is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States, and is also licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court. IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, please be advised that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used or relied upon, and cannot be used or relied upon, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.