What to do if my brother and I are the heirs of my late father’s estate but my brother has judgments against him so now we can’t sell my father’s house?

We have a buyer for his home but when the title company was checking they said my brother has $140,000 in judgments against him.They told my brother to call the attorney to try and get the judgment lifted for a week so the home sale could proceed. The attorney said no. How should I proceed? I have no judgments against me.

Asked on July 24, 2015 under Estate Planning, Indiana


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You need to reach out to a probate attorney to help you with this matter initially.  If your father's estate was not probated, you may want to consider having it probated, and then your brother can decline his share of the inheritance.  If he declines his gift effectively, then the creditors can't come after the estate-- because it is not your brother's property.  If the probate court does not allow him to refuse the gift because he is attempting to avoid a creditor, then you can still ask the court to award you and your brothers equal shares of ownership in the house.  If it's just you and your brother, then the probate court could officially deem you owner of one-half and your brother owner of the other half.  What this means is that your brother's creditor can only attach one-half (instead of all) of the proceeds of the house.  It's not a perfect option, but at least it allows your family to retain more of the proceeds of the estate. 

If you can find a probate attorney that is also familiar with collection laws, this would be an added advantage in that they could insure that the attorney collecting for the creditor is actually using proper protocols to recover the judgment... and not attempting to seize the assets of a non-involved third party.

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