Ten years ago, my mother married a wonderful man. Unfortunately, her husband, an exhausted adult son in his mid-forties, came with some luggage. Sadly, my stepfather passed away about a year ago, and his exhausted son still lives at home.
He has major problems with alcohol and anxiety, and simply cannot hold down a job for longer than a few months. He lived with them – rent-free and unaccompanied – for the duration of the marriage. It's a classic “empowerment” situation, and I'm not looking for advice or judgment on that.
My mother and stepfather bought a house in Massachusetts with a 50/50 split. Neither side of the family receives an inheritance until they both die, and my mother can live there for the rest of her life.
I have two questions:
1. Can my mother legally kick out her troubled stepson? She gave him a year of free rent and utilities after his father died, which was more than fair. But he technically “owns” 12.5% of the house (he has three other siblings). He's completely broke, but he recently got a job, so it's time for the empowerment to end, let him spread his wings or hit rock bottom.
2. Two years before my stepdad died, he co-signed a car loan for his distressed son, a terrible financial mistake because the car was significantly underwater at an unreasonable rate. Exhausted son stopped paying the car bill three months ago (I know, I'm shocked). Will my mother or estate “inherit” the loan? Or are we in the clear?
Again, I'm not looking for judgement, I'm just looking for advice and a way forward from this horrific example of empowerment.
brother in law
Dear brother in law,
I Hopes The Moneyist is a judgement-free zone, although I do occasionally highlight inequality or power imbalances in certain circumstances. I feel it necessary to mention that you used the term “knockout” five times in your post. Most professionals consider addiction a disease, but I understand that you feel frustrated with your late stepfather, and you also understandably fear that your mother will end up dealing with problems that arise from his residence in her home. Among the debts in which his father participated.
Your attorney will have a lot of questions to answer: Did your stepfather leave a will? Did he leave the house to his wife with the intention of dividing it among his children? Or did ownership of the house pass to your stepfather's children after his death? If they own the house as “leasehold by the entirety,” your stepfather and mother own the house equally, and upon his death, your stepfather's share will automatically pass to your mother. In this case, she will have more power to expel your half-brother.
But there are other possibilities that would make it difficult to evict your half-sibling from the family home. “If he died intestate and the deed was ‘tenants in common’ with a 50% interest for both, your mother should be entitled to the first $200,000 of the estate, plus two-thirds of the rest of the estate,” says Massachusetts-based attorney Gary Lees. “This would include a 100% ownership interest.” Only 50% in the house, as she will already have 50% ownership through the title deed.”
“She would then either have full ownership, in which case she could vacate, or she would have partial majority ownership, in which case she could file a petition for partition and itemize the use and occupancy expenses she incurred to allow him to continue to live there.” For the past year,” he says. “These expenses could be compensation for his interest in the property. If there is still any interest remaining, she can ask the court to order her to buy out the remaining interest from him. Once she had the full benefit, she could then fire him.
A grace period of one year for creditors
There are other issues related to timing. “Has probate been opened for his estate? “In Massachusetts, creditors have one year to file a claim against an estate,” says Nick Murray, a Massachusetts-based attorney. “If there is probate from the estate, And If one year has passed, the lender cannot file a claim against the estate and the debt is only to the son of the deceased and not to the estate. If the one-year period for creditors to file a claim has not yet expired, the lender can file a claim against the estate.
Murray has another solution. Your mother buys out his interest in your father's estate by paying off the car loan in full or in lump sums for the remainder of the one-year probate term. “Such an agreement, in writing, could relinquish all inheritance claims the son has against the estate in exchange for payments to the lender, and after a one-year period with an open will, what remains of the car — the loan debts would be the son’s sole responsibility because the lender no longer Able to file a lawsuit against the estate.
I hope you all resolve this amicably, that your half-brother gets the help he needs, and that your mother is able to handle this situation in a way that is respectful of all parties involved. It sounds like your mother and stepfather did the best they could at the time, using the tools and knowledge they had on how to deal with an individual with substance abuse issues and other mental health issues. Every situation is unique, and now that your mother is alone in the family home, I agree that it is time to take some kind of positive action.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, aims to help families dealing with addiction issues. He offers tips on how to start a conversation with a loved one: “1. Determine the right time and place. 2. Express your concerns and be direct. 3. Acknowledge their feelings and listen to them. 4. Offer help. 5. Be patient.
If you or a loved one needs help with a mental or substance use disorder, call SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U), or use SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator For help. You can also find more resources and tips for families from SAMHSA here.
Here are other resources for people who have family members with addiction issues: The Center for Motivation and Change released this book, “Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People ChangeDr. Robert Myers, who has been working in the addiction field for four decades, developed this treatment Character approach To encourage a family member to engage in treatment.
More from Quentin Futrell:
My father has dementia and he “forgave” my brother's $200,000 loan. The notary at the nursing home said he was of sound mind. What can we do?
My husband bought our house by inheritance. I signed a demand to resign. He said I could live there after he died, but he changed his mind. What now?
Low-paying jobs are economics' way of saying you should get a better job: You've decided to stop tipping, except in restaurants. Am I wrong?
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