What are my legal rights to my deceased mother’s house and Will?

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What are my legal rights to my deceased mother’s house and Will?

My mother died a few months ago but before she did she gave my sister the house. There is a small Will of $40,000. What are my rights and does it matter that we were estranged for a few years? My father is also deceased.

Asked on July 28, 2011 Connecticut

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the deed to the house was already in your sister's name prior to your mother's death, you have no claim to it. Your sister is (and has been) the legal owner. As for the $40,000 in your mother's estate, the terms of her Will control. If you are listed as a beneficiary then you will receive whatever has been "bequeathed" (i.e. gifted) to you. If you are not mentioned in the Will, then you receive nothing. The fact is that children have no automatic inheritance rights under a Will; a child can be disinherited by a parent.

If there was some form of "undue influence", fraud or the like you may be able to contest the Will. However the fact that you were estranged would seem to support a disinheritance (if this is in fact the case). However, these contest are difficult to win and quite costly. So it may not be worth you while to pursue.

Note:  If you are a beneficiary you will receive notice (it's the law). If you receive no notice then you are not a beneficiary. However once the Will is entered into probate (in the probate court of the county in which your mother was domiciled at her death), then you will be able to request a copy of it. At that point it becomes a matter of public record.


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