How much Equity Are We Entitled to with a Quitclaim Deed as Tenants in Common? What Type of Lawyer Do you Recommend?

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“My husband and I married 7 years ago and took over his dad’s full mortgage with full intent to purchase the property as 50/50 owners and his dad added to the Will that my husband would be 100% owner upon his death. It took my husband & father in-law 3 years before he added my husbands name to the deed & mortgage in 2002. We have been paying the full mortgage for 7 years now and my father in-law since paid for an in-law apartment to be added to this house and moved in with his girlfriend. Then, he married her last spring and changed the Will for her to be 50% owner when he dies. We have paid the full mortgage, taxes, insurance, paid extra money into the principal, thousands of dollars into remodeling, paid for water bills, ultilties, annual maintenance (furnace tune-ups etc.). We have put every extra penny into this house and have increased it’s value more than double. His father also added value by adding an addition. His father owned the property for 13 years before we took over the mortgage 7 years ago. We now want to sell and buy a new home so we don’t have to worry about losing our home to a nursing home someday or his new wife etc. Someone told me that we would not get 50%, and it would depend on how many years we lived here?? My question is “do we get 50% equity”, so we can put a down payment on a new home?? The deed is a quitclaim deed as tenants in common, with no rights of survivorship. What type of laywer do you recommend for a situation like this?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

You need a lawyer who specializes in real estate law. The issues regarding your father-in-law’s will do not come into play until he dies, so if you’re planning to get out of the property now, you can safely ignore that. (If he does die before you get out, you’ve got some fairly complicated probate questions, which will require a probate attorney.)

There is a presumption in the law that whoever is shown as owners on the most recent deed are in fact the owners. That presumption can be overcome, depending on the facts of the situation, but let’s assume that you are in fact 50/50 owners. That doesn’t mean that you actually get 50% of the sale price if you sell, because co-owners are entitled to reimbursement for unequal expenditures relating to the property.

Depending on the laws of your state, some or all of the money you’ve spent on the property (and that your father-in-law has spent) would be reimbursed first, before splitting the remainder evenly (assuming, as we are, that the ownership is in fact 50/50).

What you will need to do is sit down with a real estate attorney and review all of the expenses you and your father-in-law have made relating to the property over the years. Also bring all the deeds and any other paperwork relating to ownership. The attorney should be able to review those, tell you which expenses are reimburseable in your state (some may be a judgment call), and give you an idea of how much each of you would get if you sold the property.

You can use that figure either as a guide for selling the property on the open market, or as a starting point in negotiating a buy-out with your father-in-law.

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Author: House Attorney

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