125 N Market St #1720, Wichita, KS 67202
316-512-7853 316-512-7853

How does a court judgement affect a debtor’s homestead after death?

When a judgment is rendered, any real estate owned by the debtor in the county where the judgment is obtained becomes burdened with a lien in favor of the judgment creditor for the amount of his or her judgment. This is called a judgment lien and it may be thought of as having the same effect on property as a mortgage in default. Hence, the person holding the judgment is free to foreclose on the real estate of the debtor in that particular county. There is one very big exception, however. Kansas law holds that the homestead is inviolable and no judgment liens ever attach to it as long as the property is held as a homestead.

But, what happens when the judgment debtor dies? Obviously, the property is no longer the homestead of the deceased debtor. In a 2006 Kansas Court of Appeals case, judgment creditors argued that their liens attached to the real estate when judgments were rendered, and that the homestead exemption merely prevented them from enforcing their judgments as long as the property remained a homestead. The Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled that judgment liens never affect homestead property. So, if the homesteader has died, under Kansas law, the judgment becomes an unsecured claim against the estate; and, in order to realize any recovery on the judgment, the judgment creditor must file a claim against the estate of the deceased debtor. 7/2/19