What are my inheritance rights if my father died without a Will?

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What are my inheritance rights if my father died without a Will?

He had no spouse and only myself (20 years old) and my 2 sisters (18 and 17 years old) for children. My grandmother, my aunt and uncle told us that we have no rights to his house, personal property, or ashes because of our ages and the fact that he left no Will. He has been dead two days and they are already selling and dividing everything between themselves. Do we have any rights? If so, what do we do? (We want to see a lawyer but it is difficult to see one with little to no money).

Asked on November 16, 2012 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You and your sisters definitely have rights to your father's property.  Your rights depend on the state in which your father died.  In Florida, you and your sisters would be entitled to everything since your father had no spouse.

I know it is difficult to hire a lawyer when you have little or no money.  Even with a lawyer, it would be expensive and probably ineffective to stop people who are carrying your father's personal items out the door.  The legal system simply does not move fast enough to stop thieves in their tracks.

However, your father's house is another matter entirely.  A house has a deed, and no one can control or sell the house unless their name is on the deed.  Your family cannot sell your father's house unless they are on the deed.  You should go to the county court where your father's house is located and ask them to help you find the deed for that house.  You may be able to find this on the internet (you can look it up by address in Florida).  If the deed lists one of your family members, then the house (or at least part of it) belongs to them.

If the deed to your father's house lists only your father, then you and your sisters have inheritance rights to the house.  I cannot imagine any state that would give an entire inheritance to parents or siblings (your grandmother, aunt, and uncle) if the deceased person had children.  You should contact a lawyer in the area where your father died to find out what can be done.  If the house has equity (is worth more than the loans on it), it can be sold and the proceeds divided.  In most states, you must open an estate to do this.

Many lawyers offer free consultations.  Keep calling until you find one or two or three lawyers who will meet with you.  At least one of those will give you advice and tell you what it would cost to carry out the advice.

Good luck.


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