Does she have the right to remove her belongings?

My mom remarried in 2014, and moved into his home. The home was owned by him and
his ex- girlfriend. Which she has not had apart in for many years. Things started
to go bad in the marriage because of alcohol. He quit his job and my mom was
paying all the bills. She was giving him the money to pay the electric bill,
which he didn’t and the electric was eventually turned off. My mom moved out in
August 2016. Neither one of them filed for divorce. He past away Jan 2017. Some
one we are not sure Who went to the house and boarded it up and locked up the
house. All my mom wants is her furniture and clothes that were left behind. They
have refused to contact her after several attempts. What kind of rights does she
have regarding her things?

Asked on March 10, 2017 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

She has a right to all her own property--no one can legally deny her access to things she owns, though there could be legitimate disagreement over what is his and what hers. (E.g. if there is chair or bed in a home owned by him, the logical presumption is it belonged to him.) You mother can bring a legal action seeking to be allowed to take her belongings; this is often called an action for unlawful distraint (taking or holding another's property and keeping them from it); a court will then hold a hearing and determine what is hers and issue an order allowing her to get her belongings. Ideally, your mother should hire an attorney to help her; doing this can be procedurally complex. But if he can't afford a lawyer or wants to do this herself, she could be able to get instructions and possible sample forms from the county courthouse clerk's office.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

She has a right to all her own property--no one can legally deny her access to things she owns, though there could be legitimate disagreement over what is his and what hers. (E.g. if there is chair or bed in a home owned by him, the logical presumption is it belonged to him.) You mother can bring a legal action seeking to be allowed to take her belongings; this is often called an action for unlawful distraint (taking or holding another's property and keeping them from it); a court will then hold a hearing and determine what is hers and issue an order allowing her to get her belongings. Ideally, your mother should hire an attorney to help her; doing this can be procedurally complex. But if he can't afford a lawyer or wants to do this herself, she could be able to get instructions and possible sample forms from the county courthouse clerk's office.


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