How do you to interpret the terms of a Will?

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How do you to interpret the terms of a Will?

My mother had 4 adult kids, before she died she stated in her Will that her 2 sons could live in her house for 7 years after her death or until one of the son’s chooses to leave the home. And at either time the house would be put up for sale.My mom passed away 8 months ago and 1 of her son’s died 3 months ago. Are we required to sell the house or can the remaining living brother continue to live there until the 7 years are up? I guess we are confused with the word “choose” to leave the home.

Asked on April 23, 2014 under Estate Planning, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Typically, "choose" means what it sounds like--a voluntary choice. If you mother had meant that the home should be sold as soon as either son ceases to live there for any reason, voluntary or involuntary, she could have written her will that way: saying that it would be sold when either son "ceases to reside" or "no longer resides" (etc.) in the home. In that case, the death of one son would likely trigger the sale. But since she used the word "chooses," a court would likely find that the death of one son does not trigger the sale and that other son could live there for 7 years.


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