What are my rights if my boyfriend wrote down on paper that he wanted me to have his house when he died but he didn’t get it notarized?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What are my rights if my boyfriend wrote down on paper that he wanted me to have his house when he died but he didn’t get it notarized?

My boyfriend and I lived together in the house that he owned for 5 years. He

did not have a Will but he did write down on paper that he wanted me to have everything should he pass away. Unfortunately, he never had it notarized. He recently died unexpectedly and I let his oldest daughter move in because she was transient. Now she has let all kinds of people crash out in my living room and they are selling drugs from the house. I want her to tell these guys that they have to leave but she won’t. In fact, she is threatening to evict me if I don’t allow her to have a drug dealer live here. It’s ridiculous and I need to know if my boyfriend’s written wishes means that I own the house even if he never had it notarized? And what legal action should I take to reclaim my home? His daughter has only been here a month. Also, how can I stop the illegal activity and unwelcomed guests?

Asked on August 2, 2018 under Estate Planning, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, ONLY a properly signed and witnessed will controls what happens to property after somone passes away. Any other expression of the deceased's wishes--including in a piece of writing which was not signed and witnessed the way a will must be (the will must be signed in front of two witnesses, who then also sign the will)--has no legal effect whatsoever; the law will not give effect to a deceased's wishes unless they were in an actual will.
In the situation you describe, your boyfriend's wishes will not be enforced and do not control what happens to his home or other property. Instead, what he owned passes by "intestate succession," or the rules for who gets what when there is no will. That means that his children will inherit his house and other property and you will not--"girlfriend" is not a legally recognized relationship, and you do not inherit unless named in a proper will. The house belongs to his children, not you; his oldest daughter can let anyone she wants live there and can evict you if she chooses, since it is not your home.
Your boyfriend could have protected your rights to the home in several ways: by having a will; by putting you on the title; by marrying you (so you would inherit even if there was no will). Unfortunately, he did not do any of those things.

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