Dear Penny: Can I Refuse to Inherit My Mom’s Dump of a Property?

An old house living room in shambles.
Getty Images
Dear Penny,

My siblings and I are being bequeathed our family home in my mom’s will when she passes. My siblings currently live in apartments on the property. They are several years in arrears for rent they owe and do not maintain the property. 

I have clearly stated for several years that I do not want to be a part of the shared property due to what I’ve witnessed over the years and the resulting personal and financial exposure that comes with it. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t remove my name. She now has a cognitive impairment that prevents her from doing so.

Is there a way of removing my name from the asset and/or limiting the potential financial and personal liability that comes with it?


Dear D.,

You can’t get your name out of your mother’s will, but you’ll be able to disclaim your inheritance when your mother dies. By doing so, you’re simply refusing to accept your stake in the property that she bequeathed to you.

Disclaiming an inheritance isn’t that unusual. People choose to do so for a host of reasons: They’re buried in debt and they don’t want creditors to seize the asset, or they’re worried that the asset could make it harder for them to qualify for college financial aid, Medicaid or other benefits. Wealthy people sometimes disclaim an inheritance to reduce the size of their taxable estate.

Not wanting to own a poorly maintained property with potentially hairy family issues is as good a reason as any. In fact, you don’t need to provide any reason for disclaiming.

Dear Penny

Ask Dear Penny!

Get practical money advice from Dana Miranda, the voice of Dear Penny and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance.

DISCLAIMER: Questions will appear in The Penny Hoarder’s “Dear Penny” column. We are unable to answer every letter. We reserve the right to edit and publish your questions. But don’t worry — your identity will remain anonymous.

There’s really nothing for you to do right now since your mother is still living and unable to revise her will. You’ve been clear about the fact that you don’t want this property, but if you do decide to disclaim it, you may want to communicate that plan to your siblings. That way, at least they’ll know upfront that they’ll be on their own for taxes and long-deferred maintenance. They can also plan accordingly in case inheriting a larger share than they expected jeopardizes any assistance they receive.

When your mom dies, you’ll have to disclaim the property in writing within nine months. You’ll need to provide a copy of the disclaimer to the executor of your mother’s estate and the IRS, as well as file a copy at the courthouse in the county where your mother is living at the time of her death.

Once you’ve disclaimed the property, you won’t be able to direct what happens to your share. It’s important to note that disclaiming an inheritance is irrevocable, meaning that you can’t change your mind later on. That doesn’t sound like an issue since it’s pretty clear you know this is the right decision.

Because the rules can get complex, I’d suggest consulting with an estate planning attorney when your mother dies. You want to make sure everything is handled appropriately so that you can be confident you’re in no way liable for the property.

Inheritances can be the source of major family tension. Fortunately, it sounds like you can avoid any drama by walking away from your stake.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.