Inheritance Trap

The real estate melt down has created many serious problems.  One unexpected consequence has resulted in potential liability for heirs of real property.  The Georgia Court of Appeals concluded that heirs of real estate in Georgia could be responsible for debts upon that property even though the property was “upside down” and eventually foreclosed upon.  It has long been common law, and now Georgia statutory law that heirs at law of real property are vested in title immediately upon the death of the former owner.  In such cases, they therefore are responsible for condominium fees from the time of death until they lose title.  They can lose title by foreclosure, appointment of an administrator of the estate or by renunciation.  Where there is no estate, there is not likely to be administration of the estate, and so the title is in the heirs until the property is foreclosed and the bank (usually) takes title.  Renunciation appears to be a way to escape the trap by which the heir serves his/her written renunciation of any interest in the property which if all conditions and timeliness are met is effective retroactively to the ancestor’s death and thus the heir should be release from the claims.  The requirements are technical and the complications many, so anyone that may have such an issue should consult counsel promptly.