My mother and I own a house together but I pay the mortgage and bills. Now I worry I will be forced to sell when she dies
Q I would value some advice. In 2005 I took out a mortgage jointly with my parents as their interest-only mortgage had came to an end and they had no way of paying it off. They were of an age where they could not get a mortgage on their own.
A year later they divorced and as part of the divorce settlement I got to keep my half share of the property where my elderly mother and I still live. However, she has hinted that upon her death she may leave a will that gives her other children a share in the home which we own together. I currently pay the mortgage and other bills and my mother lives in the house for free.
What are my options as my mother does not want to sell her share of the property to me and I don’t want to be left in a position where I have to sell the house in the future for my siblings to get their share. I have two young children and am worried about our future. I feel trapped and don’t know what to do. KA
A The answer to your question depends on how you and your mother own the property. If you and your mother own it as are “joint tenants” you could be worrying unnecessarily. Owning the whole property jointly – which is what joint tenants do -means that in the event of the death of one of those joint tenants, the whole property automatically passes to the surviving tenant irrespective of any will. If you and your mother are joint tenants, when she dies you will become the sole owner of the whole property even if her will says that she is leaving her share to someone else. The will is overridden by the joint tenancy.
However, if you and your mother own your home as “tenants in common”, you each own a distinct share of the property – in your case 50% each (although it is possible to own different shares) – and she can leave her share to anyone she likes.
If you are tenants in common, the choices you have are similar to those available to a couple splitting up, or friends who have bought jointly moving on, where one person wants to stay in the joint home. On your mother’s death – and assuming she does leave her share of the house to your siblings – you could offer to buy out the people who inherit her share. To do this, you would have to raise sufficient cash to be able to pay them the value of your mother’s share.
As you have already talked to your mother about the possibility of buying her share, I’m assuming that you would be in a position to extend your mortgage to do this. I’m a bit confused as to why your mother won’t sell you her share. If she did, she could use her will to leave the proceeds of the sale to her other children or even give them the money now. Selling her share to you is not, after all, the same as giving it to you and it might be worth pointing out that leaving people cash is a lot less complicated – and less expensive – than leaving them a share in property.
If you can’t afford to extend your mortgage to finance a buyout of your mother’s share, the only other option is to sell up, split the proceeds of the sale with the people who have inherited and move somewhere that you can afford to buy.
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