Q: I have a title question. If a father passes away and leaves a house to his son, but the father had an open judgment against him, does the son now have to pay for this judgment?
A: If a person has a judgment filed against him and dies with having owned a home, if the judgment holder filed the lien against the home, any subsequent owner of that property should still be responsible for the repayment of that debt.
For example, if a creditor sued your father and won his case, the creditor could file a lien against your father’s home. Once the lien is filed against the home, the creditor can attempt to sell the home (by foreclosing on the lien) to satisfy the judgment; even if the debtor has died.
In general, the lien does not go away when a person dies. If the judgment failed to file a lien against the home or has not “perfected” the lien against the home, you may have inherited the home without the debt and may not have an obligation to repay it.
Keep in mind that the debts of a person that has died are generally satisfied from the assets of the estate at the time of his death. In some cases, property held in joint tenancy transfers automatically to the surviving co-owner and that co-owner comes to own the whole property free of debts of the person that died.
But if you are not a co-owner of the property and inherit the property by virtue of a bequest in a will or by function of being an heir entitled to your father’s assets under state law, you may have to pay off the debts of the estate prior to taking ownership of the home.
You should consult further with an estate planning attorney.