Life Estate of Home

Life Estate of Home

I live in ___________ [state name deleted] and have a life estate in my home. My husband and I were married 7 years before his death and he had no will. My attorney doesn't seem to want to give me a cut and dried explanation as to my rights. He had two sons who were on the deed to his home. they are in their 30's. We added onto the house after we got married and I paid 25,000 .


Your situation sounds rather complicated, and a number of critical facts are not clear from your question so you must consult a real estate lawyer in your state (we don't give any state specific information), but lets see if we can't give you a few ideas to help you:

  • If you were married and your husband had no will, that means he died intestate and the laws of intestacy in your state govern your rights. In many states a spouse might receive 50% or more of a deceased spouse's estate. Consult a probate lawyer and see what you can do before your rights expire or are jeapardized. If your late husband had any ownership rights in the house some of these may have come to you (devolved) under state law following his death.
  • You don't clarify what exactly the title (owership) is on the deed. It sounds like your husband may have owned the house alone before you married and then given you a life estate in the house. This might have been done through the deed or in his will (if he had one, which you indicated he didn't). For example, if he owned the house he could have given it (bequethed it) to his sons from his prior marriage, subject to your right to live in the house during your lifetime (a life estate). However, if he had no will, state law would not create a life estate under its laws of intestacy. Thus, the life estate would have to have been created under the deed (which is why we started off recommending that you consult a real estate attorney). If this is correct you need to get a copy of the deed for the real estate attorney to review and explain to you what your rights are. If you don't have the deed the attorney can get it or you might be able to contact a title company on your own to obtain a copy. You can save much of the cost if you are able to go to the county clerks office in the county in which the house is and obtain a copy from them. The deed might say that your husband (assume for a moment that he alone owned the house) transferred the house by deed to his two sons, subject to a life estate (right to live in it) to you. If this is what occurred, then the terms of the deed and state law, will determine your rights and you need to understand this.
  • If the deed is different then described above the real estate lawyer you consult will be able to explain it.
  • You should also verify whether as your late husband's wife state law gave you any additional rights to the home.
  • It is not clear from your question, but if you invested (alone or with your late husband) $25,000 for improvements in the house you may have another basis for a claim for some rights and interests in the house. Again, ask your real estate attorney.

Move quick and get another lawyer to help you. Good luck.

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