Dear Harry: In 1993, my mother bought a home from the son of the owner who had died a few months earlier. She made regular monthly payments to him until the end of 2006. At that time, he told her that she had paid in full for the house, and no more payments were necessary. He told her he was retiring and moving to Florida. Mother became ill in 2007, and she came to live with us. I wrote to the son in Florida asking that we meet to get the papers all properly drawn up to make mother the owner of the property. He never responded to that letter or any of the many phone calls and letters that followed. To make things even more complicated, mother died earlier this year. We then allowed a friend to live there rent-free. She is now moving out. All the taxes and utility bills are up to date, and mother never got behind. Mother worked very hard during her lifetime, and this home was a dream come true. I don't want to see that dream completely wiped out, so I want to move there myself. Please point me in the right direction to get the house into my name.
What Harry says: The first step is to determine whether or not your mother ever got title to the home. To do that, hop into the office of the Recorder of Deeds. If it is in her name, it's a relatively easy process to get it transferred to you. (I assume she did not leave a will.) You'll need a death certificate and your birth certificate plus a trip to the office of the Register of Wills. Then you can get the title transferred easily through any real-estate broker for a modest fee. Unfortunately, your letter gives me the feeling that the title is still in the name of the father of the guy who "sold" her the house. If that's the case, you'll need a lawyer whose specialty is real estate. This could be an expensive process especially if you don't have a sales agreement or the letter indicating full payment. *