If my father dies without a Will and he and I are listed as co-owners on his house title, will his wife have any claim to it?

UPDATED: Apr 30, 2011

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If my father dies without a Will and he and I are listed as co-owners on his house title, will his wife have any claim to it?

My father owns a house that was willed to him by my grandfather. The house has gone into tax default and will be put up for auction unless the property taxes are paid. My father is unemployed and does not have the money to pay the taxes. He said that if I take out a $3000 loan to pay the taxes, he will move out, let me live there on my own, and add my name to the deed so that both of our names will be listed as owners. If he dies and does not have a Will, will the house default to me since I am a listed owner? Or will his wife (who currently lives there) be able to stake any claim to it?

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Estate Planning, California


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry for your situation but I am glad to hear that the house can be saved.  First, any agreements regarding the transfer of real property MUST be in writing to be valid.  So I would consider seeking legal help on that point.  Also, you will need an attorney to do the transfer properly with the deed and for the filing of the deed.  If you are listed as joint owners of the property make sure that it is with "rights of survivorship" which means that the property passes outside the estate and is not apart of the estate and goes to you automatically upon his death.  If the property was inherited then it is generally separate property unless the wife can prove an intent for it to be marital property.  Really, get legal help here.  This is potentially messy.

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