The Moneyist: My mother and father died of COVID-19. They died with out their will – however they wrote in emails that I ought to inherit their residence

Dear Moneyist,

My parents died of the coronavirus within three weeks. Their intention was to leave their house to me, and they shared this with friends and family via email and verbally. They died without leaving a will.

There are four daughters. I paid the house for my parents seven years ago and have paid taxes every year since. Two of my sisters signed their share without incident.

However, a sister is unable to sign or respond. An attorney has told me that she will be responsible for paying a quarter of property taxes, homeowner insurance, and all repairs related to the home. although no improvements.

What if I fail to pay their portion of taxes, insurance, and debt for repairs since I currently own 75% of the property? Do my parents' emails asking me to inherit their home count for anything legal?

ML in Texas

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Dear ML,

My condolences for losing both parents to this disease. I am glad that you have a family that can support one another. Your sister may still be mourning your parents, so this may not be a good time to get this issue out. Sometimes giving people the time and space they need helps, and families can be torn apart by the emotional and financial consequences of death. You lost both parents in a very short time, so I assume no one is thinking as clearly as they should.

On your last two questions, the Internal Revenue Service and the insurance company don't care who pays as long as they get paid. The folks on the deeds are on the hook for property taxes, and it might be helpful to outline on paper any home-related expenses and the money you've already paid for home renovations and mortgage payments so they can see clearly what your responsibility is and what you have already financially committed to this property.

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As for the emails your parents sent you expressing their desire for you to inherit their home. While US states differ in what constitutes a last will and will, some allow handwritten wills

For now, let the dust rest on your property dilemma. Let your family deal with the past few months. You and your sister could still be in shock, and there is a lot of pressure to ask them to make such a big decision now, even when it was clear that your parents wanted you to have their home. It could make matters worse rather than better, and cause irreparable damage to your relationship with your family. When this sister realizes her own financial responsibility, she can come over.

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