What to do if my mother passed away and didn’t have a Will?

UPDATED: Mar 9, 2013

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What to do if my mother passed away and didn’t have a Will?

She informed my stepfather and several others that the family home be left to me. My stepfather agreed to carry out her wishes. Now he has reneged and has rented the home out. What steps do I take to gain rightful ownership of what has been promised to me?

Asked on March 9, 2013 under Estate Planning, North Carolina


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may not be able to gain ownership of the family home.  People need to understand that verbal promises to distribute assets after death ARE NOT ENFORCEABLE.  Every state has very specific laws about how to give assets after death and none of them allow verbal promises.  This is why everyone needs a will.

You have not provided enough information to know who owns this home.  If the deed was in your mother and stepfather's names, he owns it.  If your mother and stepfather lived together in the house, he would probably inherit it through the laws of your state even if he was not on the deed.

If your mother was the only person on the deed, then your state's statute of descent and distribution will say who inherits the house.  You should consult an estate lawyer in your state to find out what rights you have to the house.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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