Can an ex-wife be held responsible for the home loan if their name was left on loan?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 06, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father recently passed away and a few days later my mother (who has been his ex-wife for over 10 years) received a letter from the bank saying that they are holding her responsible for the home loan, which her name is still on. During the divorce she quick deeded everything over to my father. Can they hold her responsible for this debt?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

 Unfair and unfortunate as it may seem, your mother may remain responsible for the mortgage on the property, even though she understood that she was free and clear of any obligations on it after signing a quitclaim deed.

In legal reality, a quitclaim deed only applies to the title of the property and not the loan obligation. As the next quick steps, your mother should consult with the attorney who handled their divorce case to see whether the mortgage remained in both parties’ names when the deed was executed—or hire another legal expert to interpret that document if it doesn’t seem clear on its face.

In the most dire of scenarios, the original loan documents may still be held by your mother and father jointly.

Before she pays a cent, however, you should encourage her to review the settlement agreement to see if the attorney added a clause to protect her from having to pay this obligation.