Orlando, FL asked in Estate Planning and Probate for New York

Q: Can my brother change the locks on me and keep me from being inside our home?

My beloved father passed away in May of 2020 due to COVID and the house he owned was passed down to my two siblings and I. We all have a room full of personal items. We have all signed a document last year making my sister in charge I believe. I can’t quite remember exactly what the document was because I was a bit shell shocked and just wanted it all to be over. Since then I have relocated to another state although all of my things remain at our home in my room (I presume). I would like to know if it is legal for my brother (who lives at the home) to change the locks and keep me from being in the house even though I have a room full of things. Just in case, I would also like to know if it is legal for him to pack my things and store everything else where without my knowledge.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Elaine Shay
Elaine Shay
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Probate Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Although your question is limited to the items in your room, the real issue seems to be about control of the property your mother previously owned. If your mother died without a will, her New York real property passes to her heirs, which would be her children if she was not survived by her spouse. Although the family may bring a proceeding in Surrogate's Court to administer the Estate, the real property passes regardless of whether the family files for Letters of Administration.

If you are not pleased with how the property is being jointly maintained by the siblings, it may be time to consider selling or buying out your siblings interests. If you cannot come to an agreement, as one of multiple owners of the property you would be entitled to commence a partition action to secure the sale and ultimate division of the property.

Michael David Siegel
Michael David Siegel
Answered
  • Probate Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: It may be legal depending on who owns the house now. You said it was passed to you in part, but did not say how you know that to be true, or if you own it now. If you are on the deed, and claim you live there, you can call the police and they will require you to get in. You cannot lock out a tenant.

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