Can I get my house back after deeding it to my children?

5 answers | Last updated: Oct 17, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Twenty years ago, I had ovarian cancer and my husband had early onset Alzheimer's. I did not think I would live. I wanted my husband to be able to stay in our home as long as possible. However,if he had to go into a nursing home I knew that we would lose what savings we had but I could save my home by deeding it to my children, with life use. I did this. I took care of my husband for 12 years, then my middle son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. My husband was in final stages and I had to feed, dress and care for him in every way. He was incontinent for three years. Now my son needed me more then my husband did. I had to put my husband in a nursing home. I had to use our money except for my IRA and a small savings account. He was there not quite 2 years.

My husband died, ten months later my son died. Now six years later, I am 73, my home needs some repairs, I need some new appliances, and I would very much like to do a few things for me like travel and visit some friends and my grandchildren. I asked my (two remaining) sons to sign my home back to me. They refused. I am in shock.

They said they don't want a nursing home to get my home. I have never asked or accepted a dime from either of my sons. They are both very well off, and certainly do not need the money from my home.

I have given my life to my family and also worked at a job all my life, now I would like to spend a little time and money on me. My home needs some critical repairs, plumbing, outside repairs etc. plus I need a new washer and dishwasher. etc. My home value is approximately $125,000. Is there anyway I can get my home back?

With all the love I have given my family and always did the right thing for them first I cannot believe they are taking this stand. I cry myself to sleep thinking more of a breech this will create in my whole family. My husband and I bought this house, my sons have not one dime invested. I am at a point in my life that I would like to be able to pay for what I need done. I cannot even have my dental work done without financing it, then waiting till I get it paid for before I do the next crown.

I thank you in advance for any consideration you might give my question.

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.

There is no legal or financial answer for the worst of what you're feeling now: anger and frustration and hurt over what feels like your sons' mean-spirited refusal to give you the help you need. This perception may extend to more than their refusal to deed back the house to you, so you would be well-advised to take on the difficult task of dealing with this underlying resentment now.

Given the complications of the situation, the myriad emotions including guilt and resentment, and the sheer fatigue over it all that you may be feeling, it may be wise to get an objective party involved to help work out a solution. An experienced family mediator may be able to provide a safe place for all involved to vent their feelings, state the realities as they see them, and suggest possible solutions.

Beyond the essential part of working on the misunderstanding and mistrust, you might want to research ways that would allow the family members to hang on to the ownership of the house. This may be especially workable if your sons are not concerned about finances"”and truly are only concerned that the house will be taken.

One option may be a reverse mortgage, or a loan against the value of a home that does not need to be repaid until the owner leaves or sells it. The arrangement allows homeowners who are at least age 62 to convert equity in their homes into one-time or monthly cash payments or a line of credit. The loan advances are not taxable and generally do not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits.

There are potential drawbacks and pitfalls to the arrangement for some people, but for many, reverse mortgages provide immediate access to money they would not otherwise get. For more information on creative options for home ownership, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at

Another possibility would be a trust that would protect the ownership, but allow use and enjoyment of it while possible. An experienced elder law attorney may be able to help with this as well as offer additional creative solutions.

Whatever course you choose, it seems essential to get an objective third party involved.

Community Answers

The practical expert answered...

I agree with what has been said but another angle would be a 'life lease' for you to live in the house. This means you can live in the house until you want to leave. As a part of this, you could add language about up-keep and maintenance. An elder law attorney can work this out. The issue will be if your sons will agree to it.

Another approach would be to have a list of maintenance things that need to be done and some other items and sit down with your sons to discuss things. You'll need to sit and discuss things with them anyways - family meeting time and put your issues down on paper and give each member a copy for the group meeting. Try to come to concensus. If giving you the house back or all owning it together doesn't work, have them pay for the things needing to be done and an allowance for you.

You have every right to feel the way you do. You have done more and given more than most people would do and I commend you for that. You need rest both physically and mentally. Then you can start a new life. Think about creating an Adventure List of things you want to do that you never have, things you've done in the past and want to try again, etc. Put a cost besides each one and a timeframe. (great to ask for birthdays, mother's day and Christmas - $ for particular thing).

Mcev1020 answered...

Thank you for your answers...I did do almost exactly what both of you suggested. I sat down with my sons and we talked. I am going to take out a reverse mortgage for a fair amount which will help me with the repairs on my home and use the remainder for the things I am hoping that I am physically well enough to do. Once again, thank you. Your website is a very valuable asset for Seniors or anyone for that matter, who have situations with no answers.

Mswolfedog answered...

I don't have the answer for you but I would like to comment on surviving ovarian cancer. I am truly amazed and happy for you. I didn't know there were ovarian cancer survivors. This is truly wonderful. I just lost my Mom 2 weeks ago to this. She was 81 yars old when she passed. She fought it for four years .It went to her lungs, then Pneumonia took her quickly. She truly believed she was going to be a survivor, even up to the day before she passed away. Live life to the maxa and find a way to be happy. Good luck with your house issues, I hope you get it back. Sorry but shame on your sons.

Karengrund answered...

Im so glad I came across your post. My mother is dealing with a financial hardship and needs money to live. My brother is on the deed and I am on a trust. She looked into reverse mortgages but was told she is unable to get one because her name isn't on the home anymore. Can I ask how you were able to. We are trying to do all we can to help her, unfortunately we have expenses of our own and are unable to help. Any help will be greatly appreciated.