Does lifetime use of house mean contents also?

UPDATED: Jun 18, 2019

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Does lifetime use of house mean contents also?

Stepmother was given lifetime use of deceased fathers house. This house was bought and paid for by my parents, before my mother died. Dad remarried and he recently passed. The contents are mostly my parents, with some of my stepmothers things mixed in. She has stated that we are not allowed in the home and have no claim on anything in the house. She has already given away some furniture that was my mothers. Do we have any rights? We are beneficiaries of the house after her use.

Asked on June 18, 2019 under Estate Planning, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, use of a home does NOT convey use--or ownership, as she seems to be asserting--over the possessions or belongings in the house, other than things built into the home which become part of it (e.g. a gas stove insert installed in a fireplace) or fixtures. Use of the house is use of the house only. The non-fixture possessions would have been inherited or distributed as the will more generally provided for the distribution of personal property. If she has been violating the terms of the will, you could sue her for the value of what she has improperly disposed of or taken. And if you can't see a copy of the will to confirm its terms, as your father's childrens and thus presumably beneficiaries or heirs, you could bring a legal action against her to not just enforce the will but to, in the course of the lawsuit, get a copy of the will. 
Such a lawsuit is considerably more complex than, say, a small claims case; your are strongly encouraged to retain an attorney to help you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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