Death and mortgage

Me and my girlfriend are co-owners of a house which she has a mortgage on (I’m on the deed, but not the mortgage). If one day we broke up and she wanted to sell the house, but I didn’t want the house sold, what would happen? If she died what would happen? Would her closest relitive get half of the house?

Depends on how you’re titled on the deed. If you’re Joint Tenants or Tenants by the Entirety, you get the property if she dies. If you’re Tenants in Common her portion goes to her heirs, not always the co-owner.

If a sale was to go down, and you’re on the deed but not signing off, then there’s no sale. She would have to buy you out of your share of the home first. That usually gets messy.

I hate to give the standard advice but you may want to see a lawyer about this. I listen to enough financial advice shows to know this type of thing leads to a disproportionate amount of problems and can be very messy if you aren’t prepared for where the legalities lead.

IANAL, but I read the real estate column in the local paper, so I’m something of an expert :wink: . He (Robert Bruss) often writes about “partition lawsuits”. Where one of two or more people who own property want to sell and the others don’t, the one can file a partition lawsuit to force a sale. Google “partition lawsuit” for more info than you probably want. Google “Robert Bruss” for his talking website.

I am not a lawyer and this is not specific advice based on a professional attorney-client relationship-merely general commentary on established principals of law. Please consult a licensed professional in your own state.

Tenancy-by-the-entirety is very limited (only a limited number of states still have it) and doesn’t apply to this situation because you have to be married.


It depends on how you “take”-if you take as joint tenants then you’re entitled to something known as a right of survivorship. You legally own 100% once the other joint tenant dies. Whether or not a joint tenancy exists depends on some legal requirements (known as the 4 unities). Certain actions taken by either joint tenant during the course of ownership may destroy the 4 unities at which point the form of concurrent ownership is a tenancy-in-common.

If you took the property as tenants-in-common then you own a share of the property and a right to use the whole, but you have no right of survivorship. Her share is descendible and devisable.

The remedies for disagreements of the type you stated are usually working it out without a lawyer, partition and forced sale.

Again, these are very general principals of law and you should consult a lawyer in your area.

Also, not to state the obvious but if you’re going to purchase property with someone it’s best to know your rights prior to completion of the transaction.

Frock it, I am a real estate lawyer but not YOUR lawyer. Cripes, I even mess up my own disquals.

I don’t know what “joint tenants” means. We both live in the house. We are co-owners, but the mortgage is entirely in her name. Could she sue me to sell it if I didn’t want to?

Better late than never.

You’ll have to take your papers to an attorney. There is no way anyone over the internet would be able to tell you (responsibly and accurately) what type of concurrent ownership your situation falls under and your rights and remedies flow from that.