If my mother’s Will states that she leaves my stepfather her house and upon his death it goes to me and my 2 brothers, can he sell or alter the house?

UPDATED: Sep 7, 2012

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If my mother’s Will states that she leaves my stepfather her house and upon his death it goes to me and my 2 brothers, can he sell or alter the house?

Asked on September 7, 2012 under Estate Planning, South Carolina


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This depends on how your mother's will is written.  Unfortunately, you have not provided sufficient detail to frame an accurate answer.

If your mother's will leaves a "life estate" to your stepfather, or deeds the house to your stepfather "for life," then he inherits a right to live in the property until he dies.  He cannot sell the house without you and your siblings' consent.  He can "alter" the house, but he cannot "waste" it.  "Waste" is a technical term that means, in general, doing something that diminishes the value of the property.

If the will is not clear, then it will be up to the Probate Court to interpret it.  From your question, it seems likely that your stepfather will inherit a life estate, but it is possible that he could inherit the property outright.  If he inherits it outright, he can sell it.

With a life estate comes the obligation to pay the taxes, insurance, and maintenance on the house.  You and your siblings are not obligated to pay this so long as your stepfather lives in the house.  If he no longer lives in the house, you should consult a lawyer about transferring the house to you and your siblings.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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