Daughter can protect self from her Father’s maneuvers

This column first appeared in the San Antonio Express News on November 7, 2016.

Yes, you have reasonable recourse: the Executor named in the Will should hire a qualified Probate Attorney to file your mother’s Will for probate and to claim ownership of the house as her sole devisee. The house was her separate property since she purchased it while she was unmarried. Via the probated Will you as devisee would receive 100% title in the property.

If you probate the Will, your father’s common law marriage claim will have no impact on enforcement of the Will’s provisions. You will become owner of the house. However, if he can establish that they were common law married then he will have homestead occupancy rights.

To establish a common law marriage claim, he will have to take action in court. He can either 1) file a written declaration of informal marriage, which they both signed, if such a document exists, or 2) he can bring witnesses to testify that they lived together, that they agreed to be married, and that they represented to others that they were married.

You can present rebuttal evidence, like showing that after she died he said that they were not married (so he could get out of paying her debts). If the Judge rules that they were not married, then he has no homestead rights. You can, as owner of the house (after the court’s ruling) seek to evict your father and his girlfriend.

Even if the Judge rules that your father and mother were informally married, he still will not be the owner of the house. Her Will leaves the house to you. But he will have homestead rights, and can occupy the house for his lifetime. While he occupies it, he can invite his girlfriend to live there as well. He cannot, however, give or assign to her the right to occupy the house after his death.

Now let’s look at this from your father’s perspective. He is seeing an attorney, refuses to allow you to participate, and told you not to probate your mother’s Will. He may be asserting that there was no Will. If you do not stand up for yourself by filing the Will for probate within the four-year statute of limitations, and if he establishes that they were married, then he will own the house as her spousal heir-at-law. In that event, your inaction has waived your claim.

As owner, he could then do anything he wants, including setting up his girlfriend for life and going back on his word that it will “be yours” when his girlfriend has died. Protect yourself and your inheritance by consulting with a Probate Attorney as soon as possible.

#featured #HomesteadRights #Intestacy

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Paul Premack has been a Board Member and has served as President of the Texas Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and is a Member of the Washington Chapter of NAELA. He is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation as accredited by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the ABA. He is licensed to practice law in the States of Texas and Washington and handles Estate Planning and Probate in Texas and Washington, including Bexar County and King County Probate, Wills, Living Trusts, Durable and Medical Powers of Attorney, and Elder Law. Premack writes the legal column for the San Antonio Express News which is syndicated in other Hearst Newspapers around the USA.

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