Can A Widowed Spouse Lose Their Home

Performance Property Real Estate Question

Q: My husband died a while back. A courier served me with a foreclosure notice a few weeks ago. I called the attorney on the notice and they said that my husband had a home equity line of credit on the house, which I was not aware of. Do I have to pay this? Edna, Hillside, NJ

A: The first thing you should do if you haven’t already is to probate your husband’s estate. Probate is the court-supervised act of paying debts, closing accounts, and distributing the assets and belongings of an individual after their death. Generally speaking, assets such as real estate will either switch ownership to a beneficiary or be sold to pay for any debts. As part of that process, if a home equity line of credit was taken against the property and is past due, it will need to be settled along with any other outstanding debts your husband may have had. Whether you plan to keep or sell the home, your husband’s estate will need to be probated and someone (perhaps you) will need to be named executor or administrator to the estate. The person named executor or administrator to the estate will have the authority to sell the home or to try to get a mortgage on the home to pay off the outstanding home equity line of credit if you want to keep the home. I suggest you move as quickly as possible because you will need to resolve these issues before the plaintiff in the foreclosure lawsuit forecloses on the home. Thanks for your question, Edna.


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