Can we trespass to visit our mother?

Our 85 year old mother has 10 children. Her husband recently passed away. Our mother owns her mobile home. This mobile home resides on a parcel of land owned by one of her sons. His home resides on a joining parcel of land he also owns. He recently had posted signs put up and warned his 9 brothers and sisters that we would be arrested if we trespassed on his property to see our mother. He also threatened to shut off her water if we did. We are very concerned about her physical and metal health. She relies on us kids for care giving services. I’m her executor of her Will, Power of Attorney and financial advisor paying all her bills. Can we walk from a public road, down a 40 foot driveway and into her home with the fear of being arrested? We are looking into moving her mobile home or senior living arrangements but our options in this area are limited and this will take time. Can you provide our family with some advice? I’m disabled and don’t have a lot of money but I’m very concerned for our mother.

Asked on April 8, 2016 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, a property owner has the right to say who can and cannot enter their property, and if they say you can't enter, if you do, you are trespassing. It doesn't matter if you have a good, innocent, or understandable reason for what you do--it's still trespassing. If her mobile home is on his land, he has the right to say that you cannot enter on or cross over his land, and to call the police if you do.
(He can't shut off your mother's water if you enter--that would be an illegal "eviction" under the law, and he could face liabiltiy for doing so, as well as getting ordered by the court to turn the water back on--but he can call the police on anyone trespassing.) 
You may be able to get a court order (such as from family or chancery court) for limited access for certain specific purposes (e.g to help her move out, to a different location) and should speak to an attorney about doing so, but you are very unlikely to get broad or general access. If you can't afford an attorney, try contacting Legal Services--they may be able to help, or least refer you to some organization which can.


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