Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Whose house is it now?

DEAR HARRY: My parents owned a nice house in a very good area of Philly. When my dad died, the house went to my mother. When she died, I was sure it would go to my sister and me. My sister told me that my father had signed it over to her. I later found out that she bought it from my mother for $1. At that time, my mother was bedridden and not fully aware of what was going on. Do I have any recourse? I don't like the idea of being cheated out of what is half mine. Neither parent had a will.

WHAT HARRY SAYS: Your situation is all twisted up. The house probably was owned by your parents as "tenants by the entirety." This is an indestructible joint ownership, which means that the house went to your mother automatically upon your father's death. Your father could not have conveyed ownership to your sister without your mother's consent. She obviously did not give it because she showed later signs of ownership by that $1 sale. There are a number of possibilities here. Did your parents want to favor your sister over you? Is she in financial need? Did she take a major role in their care? Were you and your parents estranged? And, of course, was there undue influence? If you think the latter is the case, you'll need a lawyer to straighten things out. Before you go that route, you should try a dispassionate (if possible) meeting with your sister.

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Harry Gross Daily News Personal Finance Columnist
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