Q: My mother-in-law did a quit claim of her house to my husband 10 years ago. He has suddenly passed away and we are unsure what to do now. Thank you.
A: My condolences on your loss. If you and your husband were married at the time of his death, and he had a will, and you are the beneficiary of everything he owned in his will, then you probably own the house and everything else he owned.
That probably won’t make your mother-in-law comfortable, especially if she has been living in the house. Then again, she did decide to use a quit claim deed to transfer ownership out of her name – probably with the idea that she was protecting the house in case she needed to go on Medicaid. That’s a common mistake seniors often make.
If your husband died intestate, that is, without a will, then a court will decide what you get and what your children, or his mother, will receive.
The key thing is to decide what you want to do about your mother-in-law. If she has been living in the house rent-free or paying only the expenses associated with the property (such as the mortgage, if there is one, real estate property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs), you will have to decide if you want to continue to allow her to do that. If you do, and she decides to stay, you should consider creating a lease that spells out exactly what she is supposed to do.
Depending on your conversation with your mother-in-law, another option is to quit claim the property back to her. If she doesn’t want the property in her name, but wants to make sure her grandchildren (her son’s children) get the property, and you feel like assuring her, you can set up a trust that names the children as beneficiaries.
Keep in mind that under your state’s laws, you and your children may have already become joint owners of the property. Please talk to an estate attorney who can help you figure out the steps you have to take now that your husband has passed.