How can I pass an interest in my house to my children if my wife is on deed with me?

Q: I recently refinanced my home and deeded it as tenants in the entirety with my second wife. I have two adult children. I would like to have my children have interest in the property if I die before my wife. What is the best way to do this as she has no immediate family and I do not want the property to go to the state upon her death. (Valencia, PA)

A: Consult with a lawyer with whom you can share all the facts. If the house is now titled by the entireties, as husband and wife, the entireties tenancy can only be severed if the wife agrees to sign another deed, one of you dies or by court order. As tenancy by the entireties, your wife will inherit it from you when you die, and it will not pass to your estate. Therefore, you cannot pass it to your children in your will. The only way to pass an interest to your children is to draft another deed. I cannot advise which type of deed will be best for your situation, but the options would be to execute a new deed with or without your wife on it. Your children could have a tenant-in-common interest with you or you and your wife, or joint interest with you and your wife. You could also do a deed to your children with a life estate in the property granted to your wife. If she has a life estate, she can live in the property until she vacates the property or dies, then her life estate is extinguished, and your children’s interest becomes free and clear. You really need to consult with a lawyer who can advise after understanding all the facts. Additionally, you should seek approval from your mortgagee whenever you change the deed if there is a mortgage or HELOC in place.

What will happen?

Q: My Father is in his late 50s and not in the best health. He inherited my grandmother’s property some years ago. His girlfriend somehow signed her name onto the deed of the house during the transaction. My Father says he was unaware of. I’d hate to see this property go to this girlfriend if something were to happen to him. I asked him about a will and he said that’s not something a son should ask their parents. So, if my dad passes away, does the property and everything on the property go to the girlfriend because she’s on the Deed of the house? (Murrysville, PA)

A: I don’t know. I suggest having an attorney look at the deed. It should be on file in the Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds. If her name is on the deed as an owner, she has some interest in the property. If she is a tenant-in-common, she will own a divisible one-half interest with your father’s estate when he passes. If she is a joint tenant, with survivor rights, she will own the entire property when he dies. If there is no mortgage or liens, she will own it free and clear. As far as trying to rescind the deed with the argument that she somehow got her signature on the deed without his knowledge, that usually is an uphill battle. However, an attorney examining the deed can determine if it was legally executed, discuss your father’s competency at the time and perhaps shed some light on the situation for you.

Property in both of our names

Q: My boyfriend threw me out of the house and said that the property is his now because I traded him a car for it. This is not true, it never happened nothing is in writing. We both made payments on the mortgage and taxes. How should the court handle this situation? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Whoever is on the deed owns the house. If your name is not on the deed and his is, you don’t have claim unless you are married to him. If you are on the deed with him as an owner, he cannot remove you from the deed without your signature. More information is needed-is the property held as joint-tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants-in-common? Is there a mortgage? I suggest you speak with a lawyer.

How to get a person’s name off a house?

Q: My aunt bought a house decades ago and paid cash for it… It had been entirely in her name only as she was a widow at the time with younger children. My aunt put her sons name on her house 15 or 20 years-ago when she was married to a man that ended in divorce. She believed in doing so it would protect the house from the husband. Now the son, who has always lived with her, has turned into bi-polar? and a slob and a hoarder and his stuff is encroaching into the entire house, except her bedroom. He also is very verbally abusive to his mother. She has health issues and he refuses to do anything because he says he owns half the house and he pays half of the expenses. Is there any way to get his name off the deed without her buying him out or having him sign anything; especially when she is the one who paid in full for the house originally?

A: Once someone’s name is on the deed, you must get them to sign a new deed to get their name off, unless they die, assuming the property is held as joint tenants with survivorship. She must get him to agree to sign a deed from both to her. or buy him out. If that is not possible a partition action can be filed. These are expensive and time consuming. If he is verbally abusive, you might want to consider advising her to consult with an attorney regarding the filing of a Protection of Abuse Petition. This would in effect, get him out of the home, but would not affect his property rights.

Do we as joint tenants with right of survivorship now owe an inheritance tax/penalty?

Q: My mom is still alive at 83, but 12 years-ago gifted her home to me and my four sisters all individually named on a deed as joint tenants in common with right of survivorship. 10 months-ago one of my sisters passed away. We have been told we now owe an inheritance tax for my sister who passed, portion, plus we had 9 months to have done that, and now owe a penalty for a month as well. We had no idea any of that needed to be done! Is this accurate and how is this inheritance calculated?

A: This sort of thing happens a lot. Somebody was in my office yesterday with the same issue. The four remaining joint tenants will owe inheritance tax on one-fifth of the market value of the home. The value of the home will be based at date of death value of the home at the time your sibling/joint tenant died. Interest begins to accrue on unpaid inheritance at a very small percentage rate after 9 months from the date of death. You can go to the PA Department of Revenue website and calculate interest due on delinquent inheritance tax. I doubt if at only 10 months out, penalties will be incurred. You will need to file an inheritance tax return as soon as possible. More importantly, you should promptly make an estimated payment toward inheritance tax to the Department of Revenue so that interest will stop accruing. This can easily be done by an attorney and I suggest you consult with one.

Brother has a will, but put us on his certificates of deposit

Q: My brother had his will drafted in 1999. In this will, all of his property was left to a certain friend of his.  However, several years later, he added me and our sister to his certificate of deposits.

A: Generally, jointly held property (joint tenants with right of survivorship) goes to the surviving tenants and does not go into the estate. Therefore, if your brother made you and the sister joint tenants with him on the CD’, when he passes, you and your sister own the CD’s and they do not go into the estate nor to the “certain person” listed in the will. If the transfer of the CD’s was done within a year of death, they are fully taxable with a $3,000.00 exclusion. If made beyond one year prior to death, the surviving tenants only pay inheritance tax on the deceased tenant’s share. Thus if you, your brother and your sister are joint tenants with right of survivorship, then inheritance tax is only due on one-third of the assets.