Property ownership

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Property ownership

My daughter married a person that was on the deed and his previous girlfriend is also on the deed. She abandoned the property for 14 years and didn’t pay anything on the house. She would not sign a quick claim deed. Now she wants the house. What are my daughters rights? Her husband passed away and she is not on the deed. She and her deceased husband have been paying the mortgage and improving the house.

Asked on March 31, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If your daughter's husband and his prior girfriend (GF) owned the home as "tenants in common," then when he died, your daughter would inherit his share (a 50% interest in) the home, assuming that he did not specifically have a will leaving his interest in the home to someone else. In this case, she does not have to leave the house; has an equal right to it as the GF; and if she and the GF cannot voluntarily work out together what is to be done with or to the house, either of them can bring a lawsuit or legal action "for partition" to get a court order compelling the sale of the house and that the proceeds, after paying costs of sale and any mortgages, HELOCs, liens, etc., by split between them. However, in this case, the husband's estate will have to go through probate to put his share of the house in her name.
But if the husband and GF had owned the house as "joint tenants with right of survivorship" or JTROS, when he died, the GF instantly and automatically became the sole, 100% owner. In this case, it's now her house: she can make your daughter leave, she can move into it or rent it out, she can sell it and keep all the money from it, etc.
That the GF "abandoned" the property has no effect on her rights: ownership of property is not affected by living there or not. And your daughter living there did not gain any rights by having lived there.
So the critical issue is how was the home owned. Your daughter should retain an attorney to help understand her rights and, as applicable, protect them.


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