Chicago, IL asked in Estate Planning, Real Estate Law and Civil Litigation for California

Q: My dad left me a letter stating that half the property was mine no notary just his signature

My mom is ripping me off and giving my money to her daughter that's not my dad's I worked with dad since kid with no pay cause he promised me half the property and my mom always hated that and now she sold the house I found out by getting a eviction letter from new owner and is not giving me my half all I have is a letter stating to my reward for years of no pay and hard work I get half signed by him what can I do

1 Lawyer Answer
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in California

A: I am saddened when I read yet another story about someone (in this case your dad) who engaged in do-it-yourself estate planning and it failed, to the detriment of the intended beneficiaries. It would have been way cheaper for your dad to hire an estate planning attorney to do this right than it is going to cost you to fix it.

If that letter is entirely in your dad's own handwriting (not typewritten), then you have a very good chance at probating it as a holographic will. I am licensed in California and can help with this.

If that letter is not entirely in your dad's own handwriting, then it will be much more difficult for you to prove your case. Not impossible, just expensive. You would need a California probate litigation attorney to help you make a claim against your dad's estate based upon contract rather than inheritance.

How your mother was able to sell the house without probating your dad's estate is a mystery that will need to be solved first. If it was held in joint tenancy, then that trumps any kind of will and your case is 1000% harder and probably not cost-effective to pursue.

If she obtained title to the house by probating your dad's estate already, you should have received notice of that and it sounds like you failed to object to probating a different will (or no will) at that time. If that is what happened, it is too late for you to do anything.

Legal rights don't late forever. You have to act on them promptly. When it comes to claims against a decedent's estate, the time frames are extremely short.

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