Can my stepfather’s sister claim his estate if he had no children and both he and my mom both passed with in weeks of each other?

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Can my stepfather’s sister claim his estate if he had no children and both he and my mom both passed with in weeks of each other?

My mother died few weeks before stepfather. Does my stepfather’s sister have any right to my mother’s things? He was a drunk and it was my mother’s money that paid for what litte they had. It was known to everyone that my sister was to get the trailer in exchange for caring for them both for 15 years, as well as living with them. He had nothing and was living with his mother when they married 30 years ago. What can I do? I can’t have my sister on street, it’s not right.

Asked on January 27, 2018 under Estate Planning, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If there was a will, your mother's estate went to whomever the will indicated. If there was no will, it passes by "intestate succession," or the rules for who gets what in the absence of a will. In your state (MD), he, as your mother's spouse, inherited the first $15,000 of cash or property (e.g. the trailer) plus 1/2 of everything above $15,000 in total value; you and your siblings inherited the other 1/2 of everything above $15,000. Depending on how much your mother had and the value of the trailer, this may mean that you and your siblings and the stepfather jointly owned the trailer . . . or he might have become sole owner of it.
Because you mother passed first, her husband, your stepfather, inherited as stated above; when he died, his estate--including what he inherited from her--would go to his family (e.g. his sister), not to your family, so the stepfather's sister may either own the trailer (if that's all your mother had and it was worth less than $15,000) or be part or co-owner of the trailer together with you and your siblings (if there was more than $15k in money or property value). 
The fact that your sister lived with them and cared for them is completely legally irrelevant and has  no bearing on inheritance, UNLESS your mother willed the trailer to her with a properly signed and witnessed written will. Only a properly signed/witnessed written will controls what happens to property after death; wishes or intentions expressed any other way are irrelevant and unenforceable.


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