Home at stake in Will/Inheritance Battles With Family

KLChaiJuly 16, 2011

When my husband was an infant, he was taken into the home of an already elderly couple (65-70 years old) a judge granted them legal guardianship, but they never legally adopted him. Due to many challenges from birth, he is autistic and has been cared for by this couple his entire life. They have always helped him out financially which has caused lots of hostility/jealousy from the the couple's children. He sees them as his grandparents and now he takes care of them (laundry, cleaning house, maintaining vehicles, etc.) as much as they have always taken care of him. Five years ago, they bought him his own house to live in, paid in full. When their children found this out they banded together to make sure that the house is taken from us as soon as their parents have died. As well as any other inheritance. We are a constant part of their lives, we talk to them on the phone everyday, and check in on them about every three days. Their children don't call them or return their phone calls. But, their children truly believe that they deserve to take our house away from us when their parents have passed on. They will cause a great deal of legal trouble for us. The elderly couple believe that their children will honor their wishes that my husband and I keep the house they bought, and refuse to believe that they will take it from us. They refuse to make a revised Will that names my husband has recipiant of our home. They cannot be persuaded to do this. We have tried to no avail. However, we and other members of the family know different. Their children plan to claim that when they bought this house, they were mentally incompetant and coerced by my husband and I. Which is certainly not true at all, but how can we prove that in court?

My question is: If my husband has our house put in his name, and made public record, would it be possible that their children will be able to take it from us? Can they try to use the courts to claim that the house should not belong to us, but to them?

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If the couple that let you use a house that they bought refuse to title it in your name, I don't see how you can stay in it.
It would be part of their estate.

If they really wanted you to have it, they could make it so...

What does your lawyer say?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 8:41PM
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They're not refusing to title it. It will be signed over, via quitclaim deed. What I was wondering, is if the property IS in the name of my husband, can they still have any grounds to claim that it is not rightfully his? We have an appointment to speak with a lawyer. However, I was searching for a wide spectrum of advice. Possibly in the way of people having similar circustances as this. I would like as much information from as many sources as possible.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 12:20AM
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I'm sorry, I forgot to point out that the couple have never imagined that their children would have it in their minds to swarm like vultures at their death. That seems to be the main problem in this cirumstance. My husband and I would have never thought so, either. It would be hard for just about any parent to think their children would have that in their minds. It would hurt them very badly to know the details of it all, so we don't plan on telling them everything. Telling them only that it's very important that make legal record of the gift of the house. But, we still fear that there is some loophole that will allow them to challenge his ownership of it, even though the house has been transferred into his possession.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 12:51AM
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KLC, my heart goes out to you. Unfortunately, you will need an attorney, as the laws in each state are different. Your best bet would be to ask your husband's "grandparents" for a recommendation for an attorney. They may suggest their own attorney. Check out the person's reputation with BBB etc.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 2:23PM
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One thing you can do is get them ON VIDEO TAPE in front of some neutral witnesses saying that the house was a gift to your husband, "for love and affection" and that there was no coercion. Do some chatting to make it clear that they are lucid.

And get the quitclaim and proper titles NOW! If it's not in the estate, the will can't touch it.

This came up with a friend of mine, who was willed a large 1890s house by the never-married woman across the street from him.

He was fixing up some investment properties and his own house on that street and started helping her with repairs and things. His wife would help with her shopping and cooking and his children visited, played with her old toys, chatted and such. That's just how he and his wife were - good neighbors.

Well, the old spinster lady died and willed the house and its contents to the neighbor "for love and affection" because he had taken such good care of her for the last 10 years or so. The children were each willed a few specific things as well.

Of course, her siblings' children were irate because by that time the crumbling inner city area was well on its way to being yuppy heaven and the house was worth a fortune, as were the contents. They were yelling about undue influence and senile old great-auntie who was obviously being gypped by this conniving neighbor.

The ONE thing that saved it from becoming a court case was that her lawyer had taken a filmed statement from her when she went in to change her will, because he was also a bit worried about the possibility of influence and the family reaction.

And there she was on tape, a chipper old Southern lady, answering questions about her intentions and saying that she wanted the house and contents to go to Charlie and his family, that he was not to be told about it until after her death, and in response to a question about why it wasn't going to her nieces and nephews was the scathing, "They don't give a damn about keeping up the house, they've wanted me to go into an old ladies home for years, and they only visit if they want money. Charlie is worth more than the whole passel of them."

Charlie was gob-smacked when the lawyer came by after the old lady's funeral. He knew, because she had told him, that his wife was going to get a certain necklace, and the kids were getting a few things ... but he never expected the house.

(backup plan, in case Charlie died first, was to sell it and fund scholarships)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:35PM
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Do the "grandparents" have any old friends they trust that you know well enough to help out in this? Maybe if they hear advice from another source who is trusted but not involved, they can persuade them.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:35PM
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"My question is: If my husband has our house put in his name, and made public record, would it be possible that their children will be able to take it from us? Can they try to use the courts to claim that the house should not belong to us, but to them?"

Yes. Anybody can sue you for anything at any time.

From your description, it sounds like you don't have a house. You currently have no legal claim to the place. You aren't legally family and the home isn't being left you in the will. It hasn't been deeded to you. The grandparents have owned the place for 5 years and have taken no action to transfer the ownership.

You need a lawyer, not internet help. You also need to grandparents to take action if they do, in fact, want your husband to have this house.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 9:01AM
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Thank you all so much for your help. I had suspected that these were all things I needed to do. Fortunately, we were informed of the children's intentions by a trusted family member. She wouldn't go along with it and told my husband and I right away. Today is an appointment with the lawyer, and the notary. Making a video dawned on me yesterday and I told my husband that somehow we needed to get a camcorder, so that there is proof. I would like to refer to them now as his Grandparents, because they are in everyway except legal on paper. We didn't tell them what was being planned against us, but the family member finally outright told them the day before yesterday and they went into a rage. The trouble with all of this is that they are very old now, and they don't know how legalities and technicalities are the only things that matter to the courts. They are hurt and don't understand that no one would just simply respect that they want him to have the house and that's that. They don't feel well and don't need this trouble. They've only been resistant because they just want to rest and not fool with all of this nonsense.

Thank you for telling me the story about your friend, Lazygardens. That sounds just like our situation. Except without the fortune! Thank you, Bill, also for saying that anyone can sue for anything at anytime, I had suspected that.

Now I know exactly what we need to do. I had suspected all these things, but I didn't know just how they might work. Now I know, thank you.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 12:57PM
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And don't rely on any video. It might not stand up in court. You need an attorney, period.

Good luck, sounds like things are on a better track now than when you started this thread.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 1:28PM
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Since I posted this thread, we have gained even more support from other family members and friends of my husband's grandparents. It's wonderful how suddenly people are coming to our aid. When I started this thread I felt helpless and terrified. We have also found support in someone who will allow us to borrow their camcorder. I feel much more optimistic and I also feel that with such strong support, the children who sought to take our home will decide to let us live in peace as it would be too much trouble to continue with their plans, now that we will be able to defend ourselves as well as possible.

We hope the attorney will make the video for us, or at least let us know the pertinent things that must be mentioned.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 7:58PM
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In my opinion if they didn't title the house in your husband's name when they bought it, the house will go into the estate for their children. They may have just bought it for him to give him a home as long as they live.

I wouldn't do the camcorder thing. It will look like you are coercing them, especially if they are not mentally strong. IN the case of the older lady, she sounded mentally competant and knew what she wanted.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 9:20PM
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"They may have just bought it for him to give him a home as long as they live." I'm sorry, vala55, I don't understand your logic. Why would someone raise a child from infancy, be so generous as to give him a house to live in, and then not care what happened to him after they pass? Our idea of the video was simply to record their own conversations about the topic between the two of them. Things they have been saying for days, except with recorded witness to their conversations. We've suggested it to them and they think that it's a great idea. We think that would be best, instead of anyone directing questions. However, they've said that they will do whatever their lawyer thinks is best.

They know what they want, they just never knew that anyone would go against it when they weren't around to defend it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 11:55PM
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I'll say it again, do not rely on any video. It probably will not hold up in court, and there will be too many ways to challenge it. See an attorney before you waste time on that.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:09AM
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"the children who sought to take our home will decide to let us live in peace"

It is your home, but it is not your house.

They won't sign it over in your names, but they will record a video? THAT is logic that I fail to understand.
If they truly want YOU to own the house outright, they have the legal means to do so. And they have not done so over the past FIVE YEARS!

I'm with vala55 on this... they just might want you to have housing as long as they live.

Please, please, PLEASE see a lawyer!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 9:59AM
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Thank you to everyone for your help. I appreciate your comments. All the trouble has been resolved and the paperwork filled out, the house has been deeded to us and the lawyer is sending a copy in the mail. My husband's grandparents have done all they can to protect us. It can't stop us from being dragged into court, but it can almost guarantee success if we are challenged.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:25PM
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Glad you have a happy ending...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 5:49PM
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