How does a family determine the legal heir of a parental home? 11 Answers as of December 13, 2011

My mother recently passed away and the major thing left behind is the home she owned. To my knowledge my mother left behind no official will, although she verbally expressed her wishes for the house. Her wishes were that the house be shared by all her children, that my oldest brother live there because he lives in the same town as she does. My sisters' thoughts on the house I think are different. My fear is that at this time of grieving people will do something that will break the family completely apart. I fear that in my mom's final days my sister got her to sign the house over to her. The legal question I have is what are the ownership rules, what role do verbal wishes have in relation to a possible written wishes?

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Raxter Law
Raxter Law | Jeremiah Raxter
It would depend on whether your mom did in fact "sign over the house" and all the circumstances surrounding the transfer. In addition, if your mom did not leave a will the house would pass through the intestacy laws. Most probate/estate lawyers will provide an initial consultation free of charge. It might be worth speaking with an attorney that is located in the same county that your mom lived when she passed.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 12/13/2011
Glojek Ltd | Joseph E. Redding
If there is no will, then intestate succession applies (see the 852 of the Wisconsin Statutes). Thus everything to spouse, if no spouse, then to kids. Oral statements should have little effect.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 12/12/2011
Law Office of William L Spern | William Spern
If there is no will, the house passes to all siblings or their representative in equal shares. If the property was deeded to your sister, you should determine what was the consideration. You should seek the service of a probate//estate planning litigator immediately to protect your rights.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 12/12/2011
Law Offices of Frances Headley | Frances Headley
If your mother had no will then the division of her property will be governed by the laws of intestate succession. If your mother signed a deed then it will govern the succession of the property unless fraud, undue influence or incapacity are shown. You should consult a probate attorney who is also familiar with real property law.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 12/12/2011
Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
Verbal wishes do not affect the chain of title of real property. Accordingly the property, if the property is in your mother's name, assuming she died unmarried and without a Will, will pass through probate to her children equally. If there is a Will, then the property would be probated and distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. If the property has a joint tenant or beneficiary designation, then the property passes outside of probate to that person. If you believe that is not what your mother wished, then you should consult with an attorney to assist you in determine whether an action should be brought to recover the property as a result of undue influence or lack of capacity at the time of the transfer.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 12/12/2011
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
    Bullivant Houser Bailey PC | Darin Christensen
    Verbal wishes have no legal effect. If there is no will and your mother was unmarried at the time of her death, the house would go in equal shares to her children.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 12/12/2011
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
    Your mom's verbal statements have no legal effect in this matter. If she did transfer title to your sister, you will have to bring a lawsuit to undo that. If not, and she had no will, then her property passes to her spouse, or, if none, then to her children equally. See a probate lawyer to begin probate.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 12/9/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    Verbal wishes or promises are unenforceable. If she died without a will, then the intestacy laws will control who gets her property and what percentage and can be sold to pay cash to the heirs (or one person can buy out the others) so everyone gets their equal share of the estate. If you mother signed over the house in her last days, that may be undue influence or elder abuse. If you believe that is what happened you should consult with either an elder abuse or probate attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 12/9/2011
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
    No will means the property will transfer as directed by the intestacy laws. The remaing spouse would inherit equally with the children. If no remaining spouse then the property is divided equally between the kids. You will need to file a petition in probate to have the property transferred into the children's names.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 12/9/2011
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law | Martin Barnes
    I am sorry for the loss of your mother. You are correct in your concern that often, at times of loss like the one you and your siblings are experiencing, the stress may lead to disputes. Without a will your mother's estate will be subject to certain Indiana statutes that govern estate administration (referred to as the intestacy statutes). If your mother's residence was, as you suspect, conveyed to your sibling prior to her passing, the property would now be titled to that sibling. However, there may be recourse if certain circumstances were present at the time the property was transferred (for example, the presence of undue influence or fraud were involved in the transfer of the property, or if your mother did not have the capacity to act on her own behalf, etc.). I advise you to meet with an attorney who can counsel you after a more complete examination of the facts surrounding your mother's estate. Disclaimer: The response above does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 12/9/2011
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