What to do if my father passed and he had a Will but his wife is trying to sell everything and go against the Will?

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What to do if my father passed and he had a Will but his wife is trying to sell everything and go against the Will?

My father wanted the homeplace that has been passed down to stay in the family. His wife told me that we could have everything as long as the payment of all the debts my father had were made. I have been doing this for 5 months now but she has gone behind my back and is trying to get rid of everything. I just need to know what’s the next step in the right direction?

Asked on February 20, 2019 under Estate Planning, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If the will gave the house to her 100% but merely stated that he wanted it to stay in the family, she has the right to sell it: if she became the 100% owner, then it was her horse to do with as she wants, and the testator's (person making the will) expressions of wishes or preferences is not binding. This said, if was an agreemen between the two of you about the house, that may be enforceable; see below.
If will actually gave you an interest in the home now, such as by giving the  wife a life estate to live there but giving you the "remainder interest" to get the home after she passes, then she cannot sell the house, since she cannot take away from you an interest in the house you already possess. You could, if necessary block the sale in court based on the fact that you have an interest in the home which she may not affect. A real estate attorney can help you do this.
Even in the first case described above, where she solely inherited/owns the home, if there was an agreement between you and her that you would get the home if you paid the debts and you were doing so, you may be able to enforce that agreement against her and force her to sell or give you the home (whatever the agreement actually said), since contracts, or agreements where each side gives or promises the other side something, are generally enforceable. Much depends on exactly what the agreement was, and on your abilty to prove the existence and terms of it. If you believe that this is the case--that you had a firm agreement regarding home ownership and you were honoring your part--speak with an attorney about your rights and how to enforce them.


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