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Plumbing claim didn’t make it in legal pipeline fast enough

DEAR BENNY: I recently learned that my home, which I purchased new in 1988, was constructed with Quest pipes. I wasn’t aware of the lawsuit that was created during that time.

I was told that I have a leak in a pipe and the plumber would have to cut into several walls to find the leak. Do you have any current advice for property owners like me who were unaware of these pipes being used in their homes? –Linda

DEAR LINDA: Unfortunately, where a class action is resolved, it usually relieves the defendant from further liability. You might want to talk with your attorney to see if he/she would be willing to pursue another lawsuit, although I seriously doubt it.

You just discovered the bad pipes, so any statute of limitations would normally begin at the time of discovery — and not when you first bought the house.

But, unfortunately, you will have an uphill legal fight. You could contact your homeowners insurance company and see whether it will provide any coverage. Otherwise, you will have to “bite the bullet” and pay for the repairs out of your own funds.

DEAR BENNY: Both of my parents died last fall, leaving behind a reverse mortgage that they also borrowed equity from.

I am the administrator for their estates though our probate court. They did not leave wills.

I do have an estate bank account in my father’s name, which I am using to pay off some of his credit cards and real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. However, the estate owes a lot more debts than I will ever be able to repay from this estate account. My father receives a monthly annuity settlement check, which I deposit into the estate account, and these checks will continue for two more years.

The home will not sell for what is owed, because it needs many repairs. I don’t want their home to go into foreclosure, so I want to buy it as an investment. However, I qualify only for $119,000 on a second home. My siblings aren’t interested in the property because they have no income.

Can I use funds from my father’s estate account to pay toward the equity he borrowed before I buy it, so the home won’t cost me as much?

By the time I buy the home, the settlement costs will be much higher than if I refinance through my own lender. I received a good faith estimate in March of about $125,000.

The home is appraised at about $135,000. The payoff to date is $116,000, but they will add servicing fees and settlement costs, which will put me way over the value of this home. What are my options? –Diana

DEAR DIANA: You should talk with an attorney who understands probate law. His/her fee may be a preference (a priority) under your state law so some attorney should be able to assist you.

You confused me with your question, and I suspect you are also confused. Your father died last year; are you sure that the estate is still legally able to collect annuity checks?

You also have siblings. And although they may not be interested in the house, they have the right to share in any proceeds that the estate will generate. They do have the right to disclaim any inheritance, but that’s a complicated legal issue that needs guidance from an attorney.

The bottom line: The reverse mortgage must be paid off. If your siblings agree (and subject to possible court approval), you may be able to use some of the estate funds to pay down that mortgage.

My suggestion: You may want to consider selling the house to a third party instead of burdening yourself with a second home. But please talk with professionals before any final decision is made.

Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to benny@inman.com.

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