Inheritance question

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Inheritance question

My sister built an apartment on her land for my mother. All my mother’s possessions; furniture, jewelry, etc. were in her apartment built with her money when she died. Is this property part of the will? Or since the apartment was built on my sister’s land, is it now “possession is 9/10’s of the law?” I am the executor of the will and my sister is telling me since her property is on her land it all belongs to her.

Asked on June 24, 2009 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I'm a little unclear on who paid for the construction of the apartment, your sister or your mother.  But it sounds like your question isn't about the apartment, it's about the contents.

The law divides property into two broad classes:  real property, meaning land and improvements attached to the land such as buildings, and personal property, which is everything else.  Personal property can turn into real property if it is attached to the the land or a building, in such a way that it can't be removed without damaging the real property.  But otherwise, personal property remains personal property, and its ownership doesn't change at death merely because of where the property happens to be.  If your mother put an heirloom chandelier on the ceiling, that's probably part of the land.  But everything else, that could be picked up and carried away, belongs to the estate.


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