Q: I have just learned that my 84-year old mother has deeded all of her property, including her home, to her granddaughter and my older sister. There is no mortgage against the house and the will states the property cannot be sold or mortgaged.
I am a widow and also have a twin sister in addition to our older sister. My twin sister is divorced and she resides with my mother. We are the youngest of her children.
My mother’s will supposedly says that my sister and I can live in the house until we die. However, should one of us remarry we are to move out. And should the house need a major repair, we are to consult with the granddaughter and my older sister. Is this legal?
A: Your mother can dispose of her property in any way she wants. She chose to use a quit claim deed to transfer the property to her daugher and grand daughter. She can create stipulations in her will that govern what should be done with her property under certain conditions.
But if she has already given the property away to your older sister and her granddaughter, then her wishes stated in the will won’t apply to this house – they would apply only to property she currently owns. The purpose of a will is to dispose of property owned by a person at the time of their death. In your mother’s case, she would no longer own the home and you would have no rights to the home. Using a quit claim deed and recording the quit claim deed in this manner will nullify your mother’s wishes in her will.
That would put you at the mercy of your older sister and your mother’s granddaughter.
Are you sure your mother is of sound mind? Are you sure she isn’t being abused by your twin sister who resides with her? Has the deed already been recorded? Was it recorded properly?
If the quit claim deed to the property was recorded properly, then your mother’s granddaughter and your sister probably already own the property. This was a foolish choice on your mother’s part, since it may expose her daughter and granddaughter to taxes down the line. If they simply inherited the property, it would likely be a tax free inheritance.
In any case, you should have a discussion with your mother to talk about why she has made these choices. If for nothing else, it will provide you with some closure. If you suspect that your mother made these decisions under duress, or was not of sound mind when she signed the papers, you should contact an elder law attorney.
Many states have enacted laws to protect older individuals from undue influence of relatives, friends and even strangers. These laws make it a crime to transfer ownership of their property when it is done under circumstances that could be abusive. If you suspect these circumstances, your attorney can give you more advice.
For more information on using a quit claim deed, read the following stories: Using a Quit Claim Deed in a Joint Owernship Situation and Using a Quit Claim Deed as Part Of Estate Planning.