How to “Undo” a Deed

Sometimes a person will make a deed and transfer ownership of property to a family member. This is usually in a misguided attempt to do some ‘estate planning’; instead of talking to a lawyer about their options, the person simply decides to put a child’s, grandchild’s, or other relative on the deed.  Sometimes they even deed the property over entirely.
They do it in the expectation that the child or nephew will allow the parent to live there until they die.
This is usually a very bad idea; under some circumstances this sort of transfer can have gift tax consequences, lead to loss of homestead tax exemption, lead to loss of the home if the child gets in financial trouble. And sometimes, it’s even worse; the child will decide to sell the house or try to force the parent to move out.
What can be done?  Basically, a suit to ‘vacate a deed’, sometimes called a suit to ‘set aside a deed’.  Essentially what happens is, you take this in front of judge.  Judges have what are called ‘equitable’ powers; under some circumstances they can decide that a transaction or a deal is simply so unfair that they can undo the deal.  The specific legal theories include “failure of consideration”, and fraud; depending on the exact facts either one or both theories could be included in the law suit.  And the details can get very complicated, what has to be pled, what has to be proven, but generally judges will not sit by and let a child simply rip-off a parent.  This is a very technical type suit, and you definitely need a lawyer for this sort of thing. Nonetheless, the option is available.

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