The Moneyist: My mother left her home to me and my brother — and I lived in it for 15 years. Should I charge him for taxes and bills?

The Moneyist: My mother left her home to me and my brother — and I lived in it for 15 years. Should I charge him for taxes and bills?

14 Jan    Finance News

Dear Moneyist,

My mother died about 15 years ago and the only asset she had was her home. I was living there at the time, and had taken out a loan on the home with her knowledge. I married and moved out, and my son and his family eventually moved in and made payments on the home. We sold the property last month and it went through probate.

Also see: ‘My husband’s kids hate me and refused to come to our wedding, yet he is leaving them all his property.’ How can I negotiate to secure my future?

I have one brother and need to honor my mother’s will by giving him half. I kept receipts for 15 years of expenses, including property taxes, a new roof and a hot-water heater. Is it right that I deduct these from what he is owed? Is there a way I can get a tax deduction? We live in Michigan.

Ms. P

Dear Ms. P,

Your mother’s home has been of great use to you over the years. You used it to get a loan and you had somewhere to live all of this time, as did some members of your family. You could hardly expect your brother to pay the maintenance and other bills if he was receiving no income from the property in the form of rent. It seems that he was doing you a favor, rather than the other way around. Did you tell your brother that you sold the property, or did you make that decision unilaterally? Your brother may not have exercised his rights, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any.

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Also see: As a baby boomer, I didn’t grow up with this culture of entitlement — do I have to leave my estate to my children or spouse?

What’s more, he might have made good use of the money he got from the home, in theory at least. He could have invested it in the stock market or maybe used it as a down payment on his own property. Even if you believe that he would have gambled the lot, that’s not the point: He did not benefit from it. You used it. You pay for it. You’re correct that you do need to honor your mother’s will.

As to your other question: By all means, talk to a tax attorney, but I have not heard of a case where you can write off expenses on a home you inherited from a parent.

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I assume you were a good daughter and took care of your mother in her final days, and yes, sometimes that doesn’t feel fair, especially if one sibling lives out of state or simply doesn’t have the willingness or ability to contribute their own time. You deserve plenty of kudos for that, but not payback. Members of the Moneyist Facebook page pointed out that if we were to balance the score, you would likely owe your brother a lot of money: “You should add in his portion of the rent you or your son should have paid him for 15 years,” one person said.

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Godspeed with the sale and say hi to your brother from me!

Also see: I discovered through that my biological father is someone else — can I claim an inheritance as his heir?

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