Am I responsible for the mortgage balance on my mother’s house?

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Am I responsible for the mortgage balance on my mother’s house?

My mom passed away months ago. Now I am being summoned to court

because the bank is foreclosing and seems to want me sign papers fir me to

pay the balance I am listed as an heir but I did nit sign or participate in getting

this mortgage. Do I have to respond to this summons? I want nothing to do

with the house; they can foreclose or sell it.

Asked on June 4, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) You do not have to pay her mortgage: a mortgage is not just a loan, it is is contract, and like any other contract, only binds the parties to it (the signatories; e.g. your mother and the lender). You have no obligation to pay your mother's debts or loans. 
If you choose to not pay, the bank will foreclose. They could also sue your mother's "estate"  (the money and assets she left behind) for any unpaid balance on the loan instead of foreclosing or in addition to foreclosing (i.e. say $120k is still owed and the home sells at the foreclosure sale for--after the expenses of the sale--$80k; they could apply the $80k vs. the balance and sue your mother's estate for the other $40k.) So the bank can definitely get the house, and depending on how much is owed and whether they choose to take take action, *may* be able to get other money which you otherwise would have inherited, but that's all they can do; they can't make you personally pay anything from your own money.
2) If you don't respond, you will lose any right to object to the bank foreclosing and they will get the house, but if that is not an issue for you, you can not respond. However, since it's better to appear and make sure that the bank doesn't either accidentally or intentionally mistate anything to the court, and also that you know exactly what happens, a better course is to respond but let the court know that you are not an owner of the house, did not take out the mortgage, are not responsible for it, and are "disclaiming" (giving up) and interest you might otherwise have been entitled to (such as by being an heir and potentially inheriting the home) in the house.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) You do not have to pay her mortgage: a mortgage is not just a loan, it is is contract, and like any other contract, only binds the parties to it (the signatories; e.g. your mother and the lender). You have no obligation to pay your mother's debts or loans. 
If you choose to not pay, the bank will foreclose. They could also sue your mother's "estate"  (the money and assets she left behind) for any unpaid balance on the loan instead of foreclosing or in addition to foreclosing (i.e. say $120k is still owed and the home sells at the foreclosure sale for--after the expenses of the sale--$80k; they could apply the $80k vs. the balance and sue your mother's estate for the other $40k.) So the bank can definitely get the house, and depending on how much is owed and whether they choose to take take action, *may* be able to get other money which you otherwise would have inherited, but that's all they can do; they can't make you personally pay anything from your own money.
2) If you don't respond, you will lose any right to object to the bank foreclosing and they will get the house, but if that is not an issue for you, you can not respond. However, since it's better to appear and make sure that the bank doesn't either accidentally or intentionally mistate anything to the court, and also that you know exactly what happens, a better course is to respond but let the court know that you are not an owner of the house, did not take out the mortgage, are not responsible for it, and are "disclaiming" (giving up) and interest you might otherwise have been entitled to (such as by being an heir and potentially inheriting the home) in the house.


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