Better Call Behnken: Family could lose $70,000 house deposit after dad’s death

Morgana Robson talks with Shannon Behnken about the home her father was planning to buy.
Morgana Robson talks with Shannon Behnken about the home her father was planning to buy.

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — Is your death a good enough reason to back out of a deal to buy a new home?  And if so, what happens to the earnest money deposits?

A grieving Bradenton daughter turned to 8 On Your Side’s Better Call Behnken for help understanding her rights.

Morgana Robson said her father died suddenly after a two-week battle with cancer.

His death happened just before he was supposed to close on a new home in Mirabella at Village Green, a 55-and-over community in Bradenton.

Since April, he had put down deposits of nearly $70,000.

The developer, Sarastoa-based Koral & Gobuty Development Co. LLC, gave Robson, as executor of the estate, a choice: follow through with the closing and then try to resale the home or cancel the contract and forfeit her father’s money.

“It was tragic that my father died so suddenly,” Robson said. “He had a very short battle with cancer, and the week after, I’m already receiving phone calls. I buried my dad on Sunday, and come Monday, when are we closing?”

Marshall Gobuty, the president of the development company, did not return phone calls from Better Call Behnken. His sales staff also refused to comment.

A letter from the developer’s attorney states: “Marshall is so constrained by a number of factors.”

The letter mentions some sales commissions already paid on the home, custom-made upgrades that another buyer may not want.

It goes on to cite “soft costs, such as salaries for salespeople, a survey for which Marshall has already paid more than half of the cost, our title search and the closing documents that we have prepared.”

Attorney Charles Gallagher is not associated with this case, but agreed to review the sales contract and developer letter for 8 On Your Side. He said he thinks Robson has a case and that “typically the law would favor returning the property to her.”

“There is nothing in the contract which states the death of the buyer prior to closing is a default,” Gallagher said.

Even if the developer could convince a judge to force Robson to let them keep the money, Gallagher and other legal experts 8 On Your Side consulted with question the morality of that stance.

Robson hopes the company will have a change of heart.

“If you’re going to sell the house for $350,000, plus the money you got from my dad, you’re making extra money,” Robson said. “So to me, he seems extremely greedy and unsympathetic.”

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