if my grandparents took a mortgage do I have to pay it?

I am the owner of a house that has been passed down my family my grandparents bought the home in the late 60’s and on their passing my mother became the owner. Last year my mother passed the house over to me. Now I want to sell the home Am I responsible for the mortgage I was never aware of?

Asked on February 20, 2019 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Yes and no.
1) Yes in that if the mortgage is not paid (whether in cash or by refinancing it, and whether the refinancing is done or cash provided by you or by the buyer), the lender can foreclose. A properly recorded mortgage (you can check at your county clerk's office to see if it was recorded) is effective against anyone owing or buying the property, regardless of whether they were personally informed of or aware of it, and the lender may foreclose if the mortgage is not paid.
2) No in that you are not personally liable for a mortgage you did not take out: you can't be sued for the money, they can't put you in collections for it, and you could walk away from the property liability free if you wanted. All the lender can do is take the property; they cannot hold you personally responsible for the mortgage.
So the issue is: given the value of the property, is it worth paying the mortgage or not? If there is equity in the property above the mortgage, you most likely want to pay it or make sure it will be paid as part of the sale. If the property is underwater on the mortgage, however, you are likely best off walking away from it.


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