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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Is my mother in law being dishonest with us?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (11979points) March 30th, 2015

My husband and I have been living in his grandma’s house who passed away years ago. It has been in the estate of his grandma but the house was already paid off. There’s no mortgage on it. His mother decided on a price to sell it to us and we paid her that amount about 8 months ago. She divided that amount up among her siblings. Then we waited for word from his mom’s lawyer on when we could sign the papers and have it officially in our names.

8 months later and many nagging phone calls my mother in law finally told us that he could go sign the papers tomorrow and the house would be in his name. His being the important word here.

I was a bit shocked. She had asked for my social security number and other personal information saying the lawyer needed it to add my name to the deed. This was months ago. The plan all along was to have the deed in both our names. We are married after all. We believe we have equal shares to everything. So when he questioned his mother as to why it’s only in his name, she explained it would be a bigger hassle and take more time to add my name. She said we could just add my name at a later time. Well…I’m not buying into this. I know very little about the process of owning a home or names being added to deeds but am I right to assume that adding my name at a later time would be more difficult than simply doing it now? Does adding a name cost money and require paperwork? It seems to me that she might have purposely avoided telling the lawyer to put it in both of our names. Maybe she’s trying to protect her son?

I told my husband not to sign anything until we get more information on the situation. If adding my name in the future is as simple as his mother makes it sound, why isn’t it simple to do it right now? I hate to think the worst of people and their intentions but I’m also trying to make sure I’m protecting myself and that we aren’t being fooled.


-We live in NY state.
-The house has no mortgage.
-We paid an amount established by his mother in order to take over the house 8 months ago.

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17 Answers

syz's avatar

It’s water under the bridge now, but you should’ve had all of the paperwork in place and signed before the exchange of any money.

No, there is absolutely no additional work involved in having two names on a deed. None.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@syz Intetesting. We were told the money had to be paid first before the house was taken out of the estate.

Judi's avatar

The money should have been put into an escrow account. Then the deed transfer and the money exchange would happen at the same time.
I would go with him to the attorney and ask the attorney specifically what it would take to get the deed in both names. You may just have to pay a few bucks to have a deed signed by your husband at the recorders office.
Your MIL may have been questioned by the siblings too.
My Real Estate experience is in California so I might me missing something but having your husband change the deed right there in the attorneys office shouldn’t be a problem. It should be his choice if they are granting it to him how he wants to take title. Especially if there are no loans on it.

skfinkel's avatar

If it won’t cause ruffles in the family, I would get myself a lawyer who knows about these things where you live, and ask him/her what the rules are. Then you have some info, and are not waiting for others to tell you what may or may not be correct. Once you know, you can act accordingly.

Pandora's avatar

Maybe it was just easier and cheaper to make it more like a transfer to next of kin and if you were added onto the paper work it may change the wording on the document since you are not an heir. I know in Puerto Rico when a grand parent dies, the estate gets passed onto the next of kin. So if one of them wanted to keep the property they would have to buy out the other relatives and have them sign off.

Like when my mom sold her house.

She had to get all of us (her children) had to sign off and essentially give full ownership of the house to my mom so she could sell it because my dads (deceased) portion of the house would’ve been our inheritance even though they both bought the house while married. So maybe the house was given to him as a discount for the portion that would’ve been his inheritance and if he added you, than it would’ve been a straight sale. I hope this makes sense since it is 3 am and I am half awake.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Pandora That makes perfect sense. It’s very possible that’s what happened in this case.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Update: I was added as a spouse on the deed today and it didn’t cost any extra money. Is being listed as the spouse on the deed good enough in this case? Does it give me equal rights to the home? In the event that something happens to my husband will the house stay mine?

Pandora's avatar

Yes. I am also listed as spouse on my home but it isn’t completely paid for. From what I understand in my case is that I’m simply not on the loan, so he is the only one who is financially responsible for the loan. But when the home is paid off, we are both listed as co-owners of the home and he couldn’t sell the house without me signing off on it and we both own 50/50 of the house, even though he is the only one responsible for 100 percent of the loan.
In your case it would still just mean that you are both owners of the home. In a divorce it is property that you both equally own. But check with your state.

Judi's avatar

i would try to make sure you take title as “Joint Tennants”. That would insure your right of survivorship.
You might find this short article helpful.

JLeslie's avatar

You can add your name easily. Just tell the closing agent to add your name. It shouldn’t cost anything extra to type in your name on the document.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi if they are married and her name is on the deed she owns it as a married couple. She doesn’t need to worry about joint tenancy or tenants in common unless NY is different than FL, which is possible. I agree there is a seriously important distinction between those two types of ownership. At least in FL there are the three types: married (both people own 100% each) joint tenancy (rights of survivorship) and tenants in common (where an owner can actually sell their half of the house while the other person is living in it. It one person dies their legal heirs get their half and the other person who owned might have new partners in the ownership of the house).

JLeslie's avatar

Tenants in the entirety. That’s the terms for married couples. I couldn’t think of it at first. Probably not all states have it. Both parties in the marriage own the property entirely.

Get your name in the paperwork now. Don’t wait. With the correct language.

Are they doing a Quit Claim Deed? That’s the cheapest way to do it.

Yes, I think she is either purposely screwing you or possible she doesn’t think your name can go on it easily and just didn’t ask and made wrong assumptions.

Judi's avatar

In California you have to declare how you will take title.

JLeslie's avatar

Do married couples get the option of tenants in the entirety? Or, tenants by the entirety. I don’t remember the exact terminology. Some states I don’t know if it’s an option or just automatic.

Edit: I just googled it CA doesn’t have it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Italianprincess It will cost you more to add your name later. If should cost nothing more to put you on the deed now.

If your MIL refuses you can just set up the paperwork to add your name and your husband can sign it one minute after all the other papers are signed. That’s a whole separate contract if you do it that way and you can ask the lawyer what it will cost if it comes to the point that your MIL won’t agree to just add you to begin with. Ask the lawyer if there are any tax implications to adding you after the fact.

Judi's avatar

@JLeslie , in some instances they can take title as “Sole and Separate Property” but since it’s a community property state I think it either needs to be gifted that way or the spouse needs to sign a quit claim deed in order for that to happen.

JLeslie's avatar

I googled and it looks like NY state might have invented tenancy by the entirety so the OP should have no problem having the MIL transfer title to her and her husband as a married couple. Let’s hope.

The OP knows I’m not a lawyer, but having been a real estate agent in FL, which does have that type if isbership that’s how I would think it should work. Her husband should just ask the lawyer doing the paperwork. Better from him since essentially he is giving up sole ownership. In FL there isn’t really complete sole ownership of a primary residence if the spouse lives there. The spouse has rights not to be thrown off her homestead.

When I lived in TN it seemed like a married couple couldn’t even put a primary residence in one name. I’m not sure of that, but when we purchased it was a big deal that they asked marital status. They said something about a spouse not being able to sell a propert solely or something. I didn’t look up the law there.

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