I would like to know who the rightful heirs are to a home that was left solely to my aunt?

My aunt, who had no children, was married to an older man. He assumed he would pass on before she did. He the deed to his home in my aunt’s name only due to the fact that she was a disabled and he suspected that his children from a previous marriage might evict her upon his death. However, she passed away first. My mother is her only living sibling and there are some surviving nieces and nephews from her late brothers. The children and grandchildren of my aunt’s husband have come into town and are claiming ownership of the property. Who is the rightful owner?

Asked on September 22, 2011 under Estate Planning, Kentucky


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First of all, did your aunt have a Will? If so, then the property will pass to whoever was listed as a beneficiary. However, since you did not mention one I will assume that she died "intestate" (i.e. without a Will). Therefore, the intestacy laws of the state in which the deceased was domiciled as of the date of their death will control. In other words state law will control succession (i.e. who the property passes to).

In such a case bloodline is the key. So your aunt's step-children have no legitimate claim to the property. As to your family, when someone dies without a surviving spouse or children, their assets pass to their siblings. In the event that a sibling has pre-deceased them, then the deceased siblings share goes to their children. So for example, if you aunt was 1 of 4 children, then her estate goes 1/3 to her surviving sibling (here your mother) and a 1/3 share to each deceased brother's heirs(i.e. their children).

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