My father died without a will in Orange county, California and left a house that he made payments on and intended to give to me on his death, but is in my grandmother’s name. Do I have any legal rights?

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My father died without a will in Orange county, California and left a house that he made payments on and intended to give to me on his death, but is in my grandmother’s name. Do I have any legal rights?

My father bought a house in Orange county, California in 1991, has paid all the mortgage payments, but the loan was in his mother’s name. His intention was for me to inherit the house when he passed away. I have lived in the house paying the mortgage along with all the bills since July 2007. My father passed away in Jan of 2008 without a will. I have lived here since and now my aunt and grandmother have decided they want to sell the house because it is in my grandmother’s name. Do I have any legal rights here?

Asked on May 10, 2009 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You need to talk to a very good Wills and/or Probate lawyer in Orange county, California, because this is a very complicated situation.  One place to look for an attorney, if you don't know one, is our website, http://attorneypages.com

In one sense, you have no connection to the legal title.  The house is in your grandmother's name, and she is still living.  Your father's "intention" might not carry much weight at all, if he left no will and you are the only one who knows what he told you he wanted.

At the same time, there are what are called equitable considerations.  The fact that your father, and then you, made the mortgage payments and otherwise preserved the property is important; you should collect, organize and make copies of whatever you can find to prove these payments.  There are, possibly, quite a few other things that could be important here, which you'll discuss with your attorney.

The sooner you get started with a Wills & Probate lawyer in Orange county, California, the better.


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