Can I keep my parent’s house when they die?

Q: How do I keep my parent’s house if they die? My mother died over three years ago, and tonight I received word from the hospital that my father is not doing well. I know that the house currently has a mortgage on it, and that there is a little over nineteen thousand dollars left on the house. Unfortunately my father doesn’t have life insurance on himself, and the bank removed the GAP insurance he had through them. They did it after he said something about his health issues. I know that my parents would want me to keep the house, and I would like to know what I should do in order to keep it. Should I continue to make payments on the mortgage? If I do does it mean that I’m agreeing to paying all of their bills? I’m also asking because right now the house is my place of residence. I moved in to help with my father, and go to college, and now… To be perfectly honest I’m scared. Some help and information would be wonderful. Thank you.

A: You really need to talk to a lawyer. Ask around, some lawyer will talk to you for no fee or a modest consultation fee if you don’t have money. There are some issues here. If either of your parents received Medicaid, the house could be subject to a claim. However, there is an exception to their claim called “undue hardship” if you were living in the home as their caretaker for 2 years prior to their hospitalization. Don’t make statements to the hospital about your living arrangement until you talk to the attorney. Also, when your last parent dies, you personally do not inherit their debt. Their estate is responsible for their debt. You can keep paying the mortgage but do not sign any document from the bank in which you assume the mortgage. If you are the only heir of the parent, you can probably keep this house by if you can afford it. It will likely require opening an estate and paying inheritance tax. Again, explain all of the details to a probate or elder law attorney.

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