By: By Benny Kass
DEAR BENNY: My husband and I inherited a home from my husband's uncle who passed away a few weeks ago. Will the lender expect us to refinance the home or can we just assume it even if it is a conventional loan? –Karen
DEAR KAREN: Unless the existing loan was from a private person, it is most likely covered under the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982. This federal law puts restrictions on the ability of a lender to exercise the "due on sale" clause that exists in most mortgages (also called deeds of trust). One of these restrictions reads as follows: "With respect to a real property loan secured by a lien on residential real property containing less than five dwelling units, including a lien on the stock allocated to a dwelling unit in a cooperative housing corporation, or on a residential manufactured home, a lender may not exercise its option pursuant to a due-on-sale clause upon ... (5) a transfer to a relative resulting from the death of a borrower. ..."
Accordingly, you should advise the lender of the death, and just continue paying under the terms and conditions of the old mortgage.
However, do you know what the interest rate is on that property? Rates are currently very low, and if you can get a better rate -- and assuming that you and your husband can qualify for a new loan -- you should consider refinancing.
DEAR BENNY: My father co-signed on my mortgage approximately 12 years ago. We are both listed on the title/loan papers, although I have been the only one actually paying the mortgage all this time. If one of us died would the property automatically go to the other party or do we need to make further arrangements for that to happen and stay out of the probate process? Any help that you could give me would be greatly appreciated. –Kimberly
DEAR KIMBERLY: The answer depends on how title is held. This answer must be general in nature, because different states have different procedures. If you were married, you and your spouse would generally hold title as tenants by the entireties; on the death of one, the survivor would own the entire house.
But clearly you are not married to your father. Thus, you can hold title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship -- which means that on the death of one joint owner, the survivor owns the entire property, and probate regarding the house is not necessary. However, if you and your dad hold title as tenants in common, on the death of one owner, his/her share of the property will have to go through probate. On the death of one tenant in common, his/her share is distributed according to the last will and testament, or if there is no such will, then according to the laws of intestacy in your state. But probate is required for this type of title.
Benny L. Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column.