Q: My parents were divorced but didn’t split the house before my father died. Who has rights to the house after his death?
My father died two weeks ago. My parents were divorced 8 years ago and the house was supposed to be split but my father would reside there (as stated in the divorce order). Well, the house was never sold or mortgaged so my mom was never given her half. Her name is still on the deed of the house. Right after my dad died my mom started demanding a key and other things from the home. My lawyer told me not to give her a key. The house is still full of his stuff. I just started the probate process and I’m technically not even appointed the representative yet, but I’m his only heir. The other day my mother crowbarred the door knob off and replaced the locks to the house. She said her lawyer said she could do it. Now, I don’t know if she’s taken anything, she had access to everything. What rights do I have as a soon to be representative? Does she have the right to enter? If he resided there does she have the right to essentially break in?
A: 'Self help' like breaking in and changing the locks is NEVER a good idea.
Here's a brief and incomplete checklist.
0) Get yourself real legal representation, go over these steps and modify them based on the more complete information your new attorney will have.
1) Get your letters of authority from the Court
2) file a police report.
3) tell your mother you've done that
4) Change the locks again, and do an inventory IMMEDIATELY -- take photos etc,
5) Determine if there was anything taken from the home, and make the hard decision -- do you want to sue your mother? (I am going to go out on a limb and say 'probably not') If nothing was taken, "no harm - no foul" as they say. If there was, is it really worth suing your own mother?
6) Bear in mind that if the house is owned as tenants in common, your father's estate owns an undivided one half interest in the house, not the whole thing, and your mother IS an interested party here, and will get something from the sale proceeds.
7) Get yourself some real legal representation. (I know I said this twice. Consider it that important!)
--This is offered for information purposes only, and does not create an attorney/client relationship or constitute legal advice. Please seek local legal representation!
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