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How Can My Husband Get Out From Under His Life Estate Arrangement With His Mother? – Susan

“Dear Steve,

A nightmare! My husband’s mother sold him a home for $1 twelve years ago. In that time he took out two loans on the property. He paid the taxes (missing two years and in the rears on that-different story) He lived in the home when he purchesed it an until march of 2010. In 2007 he declaired chapter 13 bankrupsy. With two years left the following has occured:
She is claiming a life estate. In the deed i found a clause stating she was given a life estate followed by a clause that she would warrent generally the property to him and they would both live in the home.

Life estate issue: lawyers advised us to stop paying taxes and mortgage to end the relation. He no longer wants the home due to the harrasment by her.

We wish to walk away with a car and two boats. The bank is begging us to work it out. The bankrupsy lawyer is not helping us determin what to do.

I have gone to the county, insurance and taxes, they all say its his home. They find him the person responsible for all of the above.

His goal after months of discussion is to end the commitment to the house. He no longer wishes to keep it. He would need his car and the boats are simply all he has left.

Your Question:
1. How on earth did the banks miss a life estate? They review the deed/title to land and home?

2. Can he convert to a ch 7 and retain car and boats (as value goes they are combined value of about 7k) car as far as I can tell would be pd off in two years. He is current.


Dear Susan,

A Life Estate, well there is a term I have not heard in a long time. For those that are not familiar with a life estate here is how it works. Let’s say Mom – A wants to sell her home but stay in it. So she sells it to son – B. B now owns the home and is responsible for all taxes, insurance, etc. but as long as A is alive she has life tenancy to stay in the property while she is alive. Upon the death of A the property passes to B outside of probate.

I’m not confident the bank missed the life estate is they were making a loan to your husband based on his credit. He can still pledge the home as collateral for a mortgage, it’s his home, she just gets to have full use and enjoyment of the property while she is alive.

If the relationship between your husband and his mother is permanently broken and you are unable or unwilling to reach some sort of arrangement then one option is to dismiss his Chapter 13 bankruptcy and then stop paying the mortgage and all other obligations for the property. The home would be foreclosed on and Mom would get booted out on the street. After 180 days he could file for a Chapter 13 again, this time including his obligations from the property.

You might want to find a different bankruptcy attorney and work through this to plan for a possible dismissal of his current bankruptcy.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.


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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • Well, Steve Good new information. Clarification that it is a life tenency is helpful. For clarification in the deed it also states that they will both have full use of and enjoyment of the property and she will warrent generally the property conveyed. So I believe it gave them both a life tenency?

    Did you mean that he could dismiss ch. 13 and after 180 days file again without the home? That statement “this time including his obligations from the home” confused me.

    My husband is worried about stopping the bankrupsy, it makes him feel safe and sound at the moment. However the harrasement from his mother continues. From threats of elder abuse (for a cat living 30 miles away from her and her supposed new found allergy) to sueing him for support to withholding a check in both thier names to alligations of poor mental health on his part (I am a MH worker and counselor lol) I do not believe thier is a reconciliation in sight.

    We will speak to a new Bankrupsy attorny however, we were advised that we need to fire ours first. Is that true? Just to see if we can follow through with a different plan? We would love to just give the home up now and end this battle. It is hurtful and no matter what consession we make the bottom line is He left his mother and married. Thier is no court room that can fix that issue! lol


    • Susan,

      It is my understanding that a life tenancy will either all the property to be owned by the “remainderman” (B) and let A use the property doing their lief and then the property will pass to B, or B owns the property, A has use of it and when A dies the property can pass to C, which can be a trust. I don’t believe they can both be life tenants. You might want to go see a local real estate attorney to figure that mess out.

      I was suggesting that your husband could consider defaulting on the house, discharging his bankruptcy, let the house get foreclosed on, and then file a new Chapter 13 bankruptcy for his debts and the new residual debt he will have from the letting the house default.

      I don’t see any reason you can’t go speak to a new bankruptcy attorney to “interview” them and then when you fire one you like you can terminate your old bankruptcy attorney and have the new one represent you. Just coordinate things with the new attorney first.

      Based on what you’ve said, it sounds like the abuse from his mother is worse than any debt collector could ever be. LOL

      Is mom mentally incompetent to live on her own?


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