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My father left me a life estate in his property stating that

I can live there until...
My father left me a life estate in his property stating that I can live there until I die or chose to leave the property, my sister took me to
Court to force me out and she lost, 17yrs later she wants me out of the property bc I fell behind on the taxes but plan on having them paid by yrs end, she said she is sick and wants her share of the property before she dies and i get everything, she says she has legal right to kick me out bc I fell behind on taxes, can I fight this or is she able to kick me out, also there was a 20k loan on the property that my father had taken out before his death and I made all the payments on the loan am I entitled to that money back since
It would have come off the house at the time of sale anyway.
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Answered in 9 minutes by:
8/17/2013
Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 39,482
Experience: 17 yrs estate law, real estate. Wills/Trusts/Probate
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Hello and welcome! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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she says she has legal right to kick me out bc I fell behind on taxes, can I fight this or is she able to kick me out,
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As part of your life estate obligations, you would be responsible for maintaining the property and paying any taxes on it. If you got behind on the taxes, then sister would have grounds to file a lawsuit for "waste". This is when a life tenant is failing to take some action that they are obligated to take to preserve and protect the property. However, if you get the taxes paid off in full with any late fees, then she wouldn't have any grounds to continue. So if you got them paid off even after she filed suit, the case should be dismissed as moot.
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also there was a 20k loan on the property that my father had taken out before his death and I made all the payments on the loan am I entitled to that money back since it would have come off the house at the time of sale anyway.
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Unfortunately no, since that would be part of your obligation in maintaining the property. If you had terminated your life estate by agreeing with sister to sell it, then it would have been paid off out of any proceeds. But if you keep the life estate, you are responsible for those payments as part of maintaining the property.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I wasn't sure about how the loan worked because when my sister took me to court 17 yrs ago the lawyer I had told me to keep all receipts of pauments i made and I would be entitled to it back at the sale of the property. I was not court ordered to pay it and if I didn't they would have put a lien on the property, the loan is nor the house is in my name or my sisters name it is still in my deceased fathers name. Also if she forces me out which she is adiment on doing bc she is very ill and doesn't want me having her share (her exact words) do I have to pay her for the taxes I fell behind on? Also her and her husband keep stalking the property, parking outside demanding on coming in, I have no problem letting her in but I will not do so bc she hasn't spoken to me in 17yrs. Do I have to let her in the property?
Also if she forces me out which she is adiment on doing bc she is very ill and doesn't want me having her share (her exact words) do I have to pay her for the taxes I fell behind on?
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That is a good question...I am not positive, but I would opine no because if she terminates your interest in the property and she is the remainderman, then she takes sole ownership of the property. Since the taxes attach to the property, not the occupant, I don't think she could hold you liable for the back taxes.
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Also her and her husband keep stalking the property, parking outside demanding on coming in, I have no problem letting her in but I will not do so bc she hasn't spoken to me in 17yrs. Do I have to let her in the property?
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Absolutely not. You have full and sole rights to legal possession and use of the property as long as your life estate is in place. She has no legal rights absent having a court order to enter the property if you refuse to allow it.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
When the property gets sold its to be split between the two of of but she said I will get less because of the back taxes and because she gets more for being the executor she will not be the sole owner of the property if i chose to leave or im forced out their is actually a lien on the property for 3 thousand dollars, I fell behind bc of my health problems i had a rough battle with cancer, my daughter was going to pay them off but my sister said not to waste our money. I'm thinking about just leaving the property but my daughter told me not to let her win just bc she wants her part of the house. Is she allowed to take the money owed on the lien off my cut?
Ok, that is new information... Typically a life estate means that the life tenant gets to use the property for their entire life. When they die, the remainderman becomes the owner. A life tenant is not typically a remainderman as well..
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So you have an odd type of situation because apparently you have a life estate that only lasts as long as live there. I am guessing that if you leave, the life estate terminates and then you and sister are the remaindermen and split the proceeds of any sale.
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Since you are a remainderman, and you have a duty to maintain the property, which includes paying any taxes or payments to protect the property and prevent it from being foreclosed, I have to revise my earlier comments to say that I think she can hold you liable for the delinquent taxes because of that duty not to commit "waste".
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If you were unable to pay the taxes, and the city foreclosed on the property, then that would harm sister's interest in the property. So since the duty falls on you to pay the taxes, she can hold you liable since they accrued while you were using it. She would be able to deduct those costs out of your cut of the sale proceeds.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
My father wanted to give me the house for $1.00 but I wouldn't go through with it because I didn't want to cause any issues with my sister, I should have just taken it since she hasn't spoken to me since my father passed, since I wouldn't accept the property from my father he attached a codicle onto his will stating that I can stay in the property for as long as I chose to reside there or if I pass away which ever comes first, if I chose to leave then we go by the original will how the property gets split and its to be split in half. The judge said when we went to court the first time 17yrs ago if she did try to make me leave bc of the Loan then he would award me 90% of the house value because he would have to determine how long I would live and then determine what the life estate was worth, he said she would get nothing if he awarded against me so needless to say she didn't show up for the final court hearing. I'm a little upset knowing now that I won't get the money back for the loan(minus interest the lawyer said) wonder why he would give me false information.
I'm a little upset knowing now that I won't get the money back for the loan(minus interest the lawyer said) wonder why he would give me false information.
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It might have been that he just didn't understand the obligations a life tenant has when they have a life estate. If someone isn't a real estate attorney who also practices estate law, then they might not be a familiar with life estates and remainder interests.
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But for what it is worth, I don't know that I would agree with what the judge said to you as to what the disposition of the property would have been 17 years ago. When a life estate is extinguished, it just dies, that is it. Then the will would control what happened to the property. If it said a 50/50 split, then that would control.
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However, I have found over the years that judges can pretty much do what they want, even if it doesn't precisely follow the black letter law...
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And yes, it would be much less complicated if you had just taken the property. It always gets difficult when family own assets together and one wants out...
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Barrister
Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
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Experience: 17 yrs estate law, real estate. Wills/Trusts/Probate
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I have another question for you, when my father passed away I paid for the funeral with no help from my sister, the will states that when the house sells all final expenses are to be paid by the executor of the property, now since I paid for the funeral am I entitled to get that back from the sale of the property, also if I agree to sell the property does my life estate diminish the day it goes up for sale or can I continue to live there until the property sells
now since I paid for the funeral am I entitled to get that back from the sale of the property,
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Not now, it would be too late to submit a claim. By law, if a creditor has a claim to submit, they have to do so within a certain period of time after the estate is opened, usually 4-6 months. If you didn't submit a claim way back when father passed within the statutory time period, you would be barred from doing so now.
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also if I agree to sell the property does my life estate diminish the day it goes up for sale or can I continue to live there until the property sells
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No, your life estate would continue until the actual closing date where you and sister signed the paperwork to transfer it to the buyer.
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
Ok I was just curious because the will states all final expenses to be paid by the executor and she wouldn't sign the papers at the funeral home so I did, if she tries to diminish my life estate will the judge allow me time to finish the roof and pay the back taxes or will he diminish my rights then and there in court, boy did this lawyer I had yrs ago give me all the wrong advice.
if she tries to diminish my life estate will the judge allow me time to finish the roof and pay the back taxes or will he diminish my rights then and there in court,
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I would opine that it is up to the judge, but it is probably pretty likely that he would give you some set amount of time to cure any default before he took any action.
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Barrister
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I just looked at my fathers original will and it states "the executrix is to pay all of the just debts and funeral expenses of the descendent as soon as conveniently may be after my death" I paid all these debts so even with that said I am not entitled to any of the money back that I paid of his debt even though it specifically says she was to pay them. She wouldn't sign the paperwork at the funeral home and I had no choice but to pay it or my father wouldn't be buried and I wasn't going to let that happen.
I agree it isn't fair. But the law in NJ specifically says:

Pursuant to N.J.S.A.3:22-4 creditors of the decedent need present their claims to the executor in writing and under oath within nine months from the date of the decedent’s death. If a claim is not presented to the executor within the nine months from the date of the death, the executor is not liable to the creditor with respect to any assets which the executor may have delivered or paid in satisfaction of any lawful claims before the presentation of the claim.
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So if you didn't present your claim within that 9 months, the executor can refuse to pay it.
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Barrister
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I understand what your saying but technically I'm not a creditor of the descendant, the bank for which I paid the loan is a creditor of my father but I'm not, also I just made the last payment on the loan probably 6-7 months ago so it was still an open loan until then.
Actualy, legally you are a creditor of the estate because you paid a bill on behalf of your deceased parent and would be asking the estate to reimburse you. That makes you a creditor the same as a credit card company or bank that father owed a debt to when he passed. If the estate owes you money, you are a creditor.
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As for the loan, if you didn't pay it, the bank would foreclose and you would harm the remainderman's interest. So you had a legal obligation to pay it to preserve the property for the remainderman.
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Barrister
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
One last question, I was going to replace the roof next month and she told me not to that we would sell the house as is, now can she take money from my share for the wear and tare of the roof out of my share of the money or is she only entitled to the executrix fee
I hate to say it, but if the roof has deteriorated to a point where it needs to be replaced, I think that she can charge you that cost because that would be part of maintaining the property through the life estate. A life tenant can't just let the place run down completely and then turn it over to the remainderman.
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But if she just wanted to change the roof because she wanted a new one or didn't like the color, style, etc. I don't think she could charge you. It has to actually need to be replaced before you are responsible.
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Barrister
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I wanted to replace it and she told me not to waste my money because it wont be worth it she just wants to sell it as is, cheap and fast and be done with it .
Customer reply replied 4 years ago
I wanted to replace it and she told me not to waste my money because it wont be worth it she just wants to sell it as is, cheap and fast and be done with it, the thing is I'm not trying to turn it over to her we are in the middle of a remodel and she told us to stop and she wants to sell it, the roof was going to be done next month but she took pictures of what it looks like now and told me not to bother because she wants her money and she wants it fast, so yes of course things look disheveled because we are doing work, just put new ceramic tile throughout the kitchen dining room and hallway, fresh paint and we just purchased all new trim bc we took the old one down and she said don't even put it up, don't waste your time or anymore money.. I'm not going to fight her anymore because my health is deteriorating but I don't want to be held responsible for something I offered to fix.
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