What are my rights in regards to my companion of 16 years and our minor child since he is deceased?

His children from his former marriage are asking to go through everything and take what they want. I am not happy with this since he is not even buried yet. I told them they were not going through this house and taking things since we have acquired almost everything together. He did tell me if anything ever happened to him there are 2 items that they get, but nothing else was ever mentioned. I do not know what to do since I am very upset and do not want them going through all of our personal belongings. Please help me because I do not know what to do; they seem to forget they have a younger sister that is here also.

Asked on November 8, 2013 under Estate Planning, Indiana


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the problems that have arisen since your companion's death.  The issue here is who legally owns his belongings and how they are characterized.  First, if the house is in both your names with a right of survivorship then it is yours legally and the contents as well. If the house was jointly owned with out a right of survivorship then half of the house and the contents are presumed to be his; you are going to have to prove ownership or go through an appraisal of value and deciding many legalities that are too difficult to explain in this context.  If the house was only his then it will pass through his estate to his beneficiaries: his other kids and your daughter.  I would start by getting a lawyer and filing an estate proceeding asap and asking the court to bar them from the house until things are sorted out.  What he said to give them - an oral Will - is generally not binding.  Get help.  Good luck.

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