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‘I want to do what is right’: My father died without a will. His wife moved out of state — and left me paying the mortgage. 

‘She can’t afford the monthly payments. I am second in succession as his only child.’ Dear Quentin,

My father died in 2021 with no will. He shared a home with his second wife. The house is financed under both their names with a small amount of equity ($40,000). She moved out of state shortly after he died. I moved into the house and have been paying the note since. 

She can’t afford the monthly payments. I am second in succession as his only child. I need a place to live while I fix my other home. My FICO score FICO, +1.99% is very poor, but it will increase when I pay off my home in 2025 or 2026. I want to do what is right, but she hasn’t answered me the last couple of times I called. She knew the home was financed, but English is her second language, and she doesn’t trust me.

Her children can’t help. I offered them the opportunity to sell it to me, to keep it for her and make payments, or to sell it outright. They thought about it for two months, but they moved her and some furniture out and I moved in. Now no one answers me.

I would appreciate your help. The house is located in New Mexico.


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Dear Stepdaughter,

You don’t say whether your father bought this house before or during their marriage, or whether your stepmother’s name is on the deed, but the end result is the same if they are both on the mortgage: This house is deemed community property and, as such, your stepmother is the sole owner. In New Mexico, if a person dies and leaves behind a spouse and children, their spouse receives 100% of their community property and one-quarter of their separate property, with their children receiving the rest.

Why do you want to buy your father’s home? Does it hold sentimental value, or do you believe you will get a good deal from your stepmother and be able to rent it out? Think carefully about making a financial decision based on any emotional attachment to this house. Most people process their grief and recover within a year after a loss, but it can take even longer than that, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some people experience a prolonged grieving process. You should only buy this house if it makes financial sense.