From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My Dad passed away this month. When he died, I found out that I was still on his Gloucester County lease as a cosigner. The lease was signed in 2011. I had moved out in 2013, letting the management company know that I wanted off the lease. When I asked if the management company had anything for me to sign, they replied ‘no’. When I moved out, my Dad had let his brother, his brother’s son, and his brother’s grandson move in. They are still there and the landlord knows of the situation, asking them for money for every day they have been there past May. At best, when my Dad died I thought I would be morally obligated to remove my Dad’s property and clean. Instead, the feeling I am getting is that the landlord wants to hold me responsible for damages, utilities, and possible future rent. Dad had nothing and I am a stay-at-home mom of special needs children.
You have mentioned a number of potential issues. First, the only person who has the authority to act for your dad after he has died is the Personal Representative of his estate (if he had a Will) or the Administrator of his estate (if he had no Will). It sounds like your dad (or his estate) owes the landlord some money. If your dad had any money in his account or if his assets could be sold to pay the bill, that could reduce your own personal exposure in this case. If so, think about opening his estate and using that money to pay the bill and to settle the case with the landlord.
Suing you for rent will cost the landlord money and time. If you have little money, there is little upside for the landlord. But, to diminish the chance even more, if you can apply some of the estate’s money and get a release from the landlord then you won’t be personally involved at all (a nice result).
If your father had no money at all, you may still want to open the estate to have the court declare him insolvent, but you would need to have an experienced Gloucester County Estate Attorney tell you whether that is worth the time and money. As to your own exposure, you should have an experienced lawyer look over the relevant paperwork. Good news or bad, it is better to know your true position rather than let the landlord threaten you without any information.
If you have questions about Estate Probate and Litigation in Gloucester County, New Jersey, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation with one of our probate attorneys.