Q: We are in the process of buying my mother-in-law’s house from her.

If she were to die today, before we purchase the property, her will states that the house is to be sold and the proceeds divided equally amongst her children.

What happens to the will after my husband and I have completed the purchase? Will the new deed (the one with our name on it) supersede her will? Does she need to change the will? Or, will the new deed say the house belongs to us once we have closed.

A: Let’s start at the top. A will generally outlines who gets what after an individual dies. Your mother-in-law’s will likely cover the distribution of property and cash that she owns. If she owns a house at the time of death, the will may direct the court to parcel out ownership of the property in a particular way.

However, if she doesn’t own a house or other real property when she dies, then that portion of the will doesn’t mean anything. With respect to the home you will have purchased, the will has no effect on your ownership.

Once you purchase the property, you and your husband are the owners. At that point in time, you should consider writing a will. That way, if something bad should happen to either of you, your property will be distributed according to your instructions.

Reading between the lines, it almost seems as though you’re trying to purchase this house under the radar screen. Perhaps you are worried that one of your husband’s siblings would object to the sale? Or, perhaps you are buying the house below it’s true market value.

If that’s true, and you are intending to surprise your in-laws after your mother-in-law is deceased, you and your husband may be in for a tough legal battle.

Your attorney should be able to answer any other questions you may have.