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

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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

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 8 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.


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