Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

November 27, 2012
Can one sibling re-fi a house co-owned by other siblings?

Q: Several years before my mother passed away in 2010, she added the names of all her six kids to the deed. The oldest sibling is executor and I am secondary. The first loan is in (Mom's) name only. She is on the second deed as well as myself. One sibling lives in the house and would like to refinance both loans but her name is on neither loan. Does she need permission from all the others to refinance, or can either the other sibling or myself give permission if needed? The bank can't seem to give the same answer. Also, what is the difference between a "trustee" and "executor"? And is being the executor the same as having power of attorney for someone? Thank you. --Cora, El Dorado Hills

A: It sounds like your mother's house was not held in a trust and there was no probate proceeding after your mother's death. If that is the case, then your mother's name is probably still on the deed. If so, I recommend that you consult with a real estate lawyer and/or a title/escrow company to have your mother's name removed from the title.

Whether you all hold title as joint tenants or tenants-in-common will determine what steps are needed to remove your mother's name from the deed.

As part of cleaning up the title, you and your siblings also need to decide how you should hold title going forward. Whether you hold title as joint tenants or tenants-in-common determines who inherits your interest when each of you dies.

Regardless of whether you refinance or not, you should take both steps (removing your mother's name and deciding how you and your siblings hold the title), or the situation will become even more complicated when one of the siblings dies.

As to refinancing, the lender will require that all co-owners be signers on the loan, which means that all siblings will have to agree to refinance the property. Rates are probably lower now than when the existing loans were obtained, so that is incentive to refinance. However, it may be that one or more of the siblings has recently refinanced their own house and will not qualify to be on another loan.

If you continue having trouble getting an answer when you speak to the lender, ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the situation.

When asked what a "trustee" does, I generally think of the "trustee" who manages the assets held in a trust; in contrast to the "executor" who handles any property that was owned by a decedent outside of a trust and is in charge of the decedent's estate as it goes through probate. However, you may be seeing the term "trustee" on one of the deeds of trust on your mother's property. In that context, the "trustee" is the third party who makes sure that the terms of the loan are followed by the borrower and lender.

An "attorney-in-fact" is the person who is authorized to take action under a power of attorney document. The attorney-in-fact is able to exercise rights that another person (the "principal") has during his or her lifetime, such as managing assets and making decisions about financial matters, as authorized in the power of attorney document.

An attorney-in-fact can only act during the principal's lifetime. After the principal's death, his or her affairs are handled by the executor or trustee.

About Comments

Reader comments on are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

Personal Finance columns

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31