Is my mother bound to service contracts signed by my deceased father?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 12, 2016
Lottie caregiver asked...

My father recently passed away and his rental properties passed into my care. My elderly mother is now the sole owner of the rental property. I manage it for her as she is not able to. Four years before my father passed away he signed an agreement to have waste service solely with one company. However the company has tripled the price over fair market competitors. She is no longer able to afford their high fees. We would like to quit their services and use a new provider. But the company says we are bound to their service agreement and cannot quit. And if we were to sell the property that the new owners would be bound to use their services. Are we legally bound to my fathers contract now that he has passed? No one was aware of this contract till after his death. He was the only one to sign.


Expert Answers

Frederick Hertz is a lawyer, mediator and author based in Oakland, California whose work focuses on property co-ownership and financial relationships between siblings, families, spouses and domestic partners, business partners, friends, and unmarried couples. He provides both transaction and negotiation counsel and also serves as a mediator and arbitrator in these areas.

The answer to this question depends entirely on the specific terms of the contract - so I can't answer it in general. You will need to find a local attorney who is experienced in contract disputes, and show the contract to that attorney for advice. Typically contracts continue in force even upon the death of the signatory, and "bind" the heirs of the signatory - but every contract has provisions for termination. Those are the terms that will answer your question!


Community Answers

Carolyn l. rosenblatt answered...

The question is whether you are bound to service contracts from your deceased father. I agree that the answer depends on the contract. Often, the agreement is connected the property, and not to the individual, but the terms of the agreement will spell this out. Even if the service agreement is binding, it may be negotiable due to the death of the signatory, changed conditions and the inequitable financial impact on your mother. Forcing her to comply could amount to a financially abusive situation, which conceivably could give you an edge in negotiating new terms. I agree that you need to seek the advice of an attorney asap. Be sure to find one who is familiar with any financial elder abuse laws in your state. You might be able to get new terms even if the old contract stays, working out a win-win. It's definitely worth trying.