My brother is in a nursing home. Does this mean he is no longer responsible for property he owns?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 14, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I share ownership of a house with my brother. We lived in it together until he had to be put into a nursing home. Our other brother, who has the Power of Attorney, said my partner-brother doesn't have to help with the taxes or insurance or any other expenses regarding our house because my partner-brother isn't living in it. Is this true?

Expert Answers

You want to know if your brother, who shares ownership of a house with you, remains responsible for sharing the house expenses, although he is now in a nursing home. I believe that legally he does remain responsible for sharing the house costs. His obligations as an owner do not end simply because he is no longer living in the house. [This assumes that you have no written agreement providing otherwise.]

Suppose you defaulted on paying taxes on the house. The tax authorities could go after your brother, as well as you, to collect the taxes owed.

But that's just the legal situation. I see two other issues here:

1) What can you do if the brother with the Power of Attorney refuses to contributed money from your other brother's funds to pay that brother's share of the house expenses? If you can't persuade the brother with the PA to make contributions, your remedy is to sue him. That's a drastic step, although it might be what you end up doing. But before that, make every effort to resolve this by negotiations.

2) What's fair? What's fair here is, to me, subjective. Should your brother in the nursing home receive a discount on house taxes, insurance and other expenses because he no longer has the benefit of living in the house? I see no clear answer. Likewise, if your brother should receive a discount, how big should it be? Again, there's no one clear answer. And what would your brother in the nursing home think and decide about these questions, if he were able to?

Perhaps you can talk with the brother with the PA and state that while you have the legal right to compel him to pay the other brother's half share of house expenses, you are willing to reduce the amount he has to contribute, in order to be completely fair, and save both of you from a lawsuit.