What to do if my parents added my name to their home without my knowledge?

I just found out that 30 years ago when my parents bought their home, they added me as a co-owner without my knowledge. My father passed some years ago and my mother, from whom I’m estranged, has been financially irresponsible. She had a bankruptcy last year and is now needing costly repairs to the home. She is saying that since I’m listed as a co-owner, I’m financially responsible. She also wants to sell it to get money but says that she can’t unless I quick claim deed her the home. I’m really confused. I don’t want any part of this. How do I

protect myself financially from her issues?

Asked on June 28, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First, you need to get a copy of the deed from the clerk's office and have an attorney review the document to determine (1) if you are actually on the deed (2) what your rights and duties are and (3) if you want to pursue any legal action.... or if a quit claim deed will be enough.
You can be on a deed without being financilly resonsible for a mortgage.  This means, they could have added you to the deed without adding you to the mortgage.  They cannot make you legally liable for a mortgage without your permission... and it's unlikely that a mortgage company would have allowed that without your knowledge and signature.  Many people do add children in some capacity to deeds as a way of making gifts after they pass away.  Basically, the parent may have a life estate until they pass... and then the property would automatically pass upon their death.  It's an easy way to avoid probate.  This may be the case with your parents.
Whether you want to assert an interest in the property or not, you may want to file a suit to clear up the title if any part of the deed is unclear.  This can help force a sale of the house or remove your name from the house.  The house can be sold, but depending on how the deed is worded, the proceeds may be divided fifty-fifty between you and your mother.  This means that your mom is asking you sign a 'quit claim' deed because it 'quits' or ends your claim to any of those proceeds.
Bottom line, you have a lot of different options-- but you need to have someone review the deed to tell you exactly what your options are. Considering that your parents added you without telling you and your mom is not very responsible, take the time to get good advice so you will know your rights and duties under the deed.


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