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RE Q&A: If a Mortgage Cosigner Dies, Who Inherits the Home?

A father cosigned a loan so his daughter could buy a house, but what happens if he passes away? Would her brother be able to take over their father’s portion of the home?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My dad cosigned on the mortgage on my home. We split all the bills. If my dad passes away, can my brother inherit his part of the property? He does not live with us, but I am afraid he will try to take over my dad’s portion of our house. – Silvia

Answer: You did not mention whether you co-owned your home with your father or if he just cosigned your mortgage loan and helps you with your bills.

That missing piece of information will make a big difference in your situation.

When someone cosigns a loan, they agree to be responsible for the repayment of money they did not get the benefit of. The cosigner acts as a “surety” on behalf of the borrower. If the borrower cannot pay the debt, the lender can collect the money from the surety.

Since your father cosigned the loan you used to buy your house, your mortgage lender can foreclose your home and seek repayment from your father if you stop making payments.

However, despite the responsibility he voluntarily took on, your father has no rights in the property unless his name is also on the deed.

While it is nice that he helped you with your loan, he is not in an enviable position.

If you co-own the property with your father, you will need to review the deed’s exact wording to determine what will happen if your father passes away. If the home is owned as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” and one of the co-owners passes away, the remaining owners get their share.

If the deed does not contain those words, your home would be held as “tenants in common” with your dad, and his share would pass to his legal heirs. To determine who his legal heirs are, his will, if he has one, and who survives him, will determine who gets his share.

If everyone is on the same page on this issue, you should all see an experienced estate planner and square everything away for the future.

© 2021 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC