How can I make sure that my father's house goes to me and not to my brother?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father quit claimed his house to me, which was my moms who divorced my dad 20 plus years ago. I wanted to know if because he quit claimed the house to me, does he still need to put the house in his trust and/or will? My brother, who my dad wants nothing to do with got wind that my dad was doing this and he is upset. He thinks that the house should be split 50/50. How can I protect my dads wishes in making sure that i will get his house?

Expert Answers

Judy and Fred co-mediate family property and financial conflicts, and each work individually as mediators as well. Judy Barber, a mediator and family business consultant, assists clients in resolving overlapping family and money conflicts so they are better able to make sound estate planning decisions. Frederick Hertz is an attorney and mediator who specializes in resolving co-ownership matters involving families, siblings, spouses, cohabitants and domestic partners.

We understand that your dad does not want contact with your brother. But here is the question we would ask of you: what kind of a relationship do you want with your sibling? Assuming that the legal issues can be resolved and it is clear the wishes of your father are protected, who tells your brother of the outcome? How do you minimize the relationship harm that may ensure?

From what you've described, it was your father's decision to quitclaim the house in its entirety to you. Is he willing to communicate his decision to your brother? It need not be in person. A letter or email would be fine. Oftentimes this is the better approach, since if you are the messenger and the beneficiary your brother may be angry with you and assume you influenced your father's decision. To prevent further damage in the family, we suggest your father inform your brother rather than involving you directly.

As for the legal issues, while a quitclaim deed is ordinarily valid, relatives often question such a transfer, on the grounds that the grantor (your dad) didn't really know what he was doing. For this reason, it is always a good idea for him to add something to his will or trust, which affirms that he intended to transfer the entirety of the house to you, and that this is why he signed the quitclaim. There are two reasons for doing so: one, it ensures that the house will transfer to you even if the deed is questioned, and second, it means that his lawyer will have heard the instructions directly, and would be able to testify in a probate hearing (if there was a challenge) about your dad's intentions.