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Heir legalities with a handwritten "Will" in Orange County, NY


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#1 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:47 AM

There are several issues at hand with this "estate". Here is the background:
My mother passed away Aug, 2012. I live in the property she owned outright. At her request, I moved here the previous year, to care for her. Noone had helped her with the bills nor the property taxes up until that time which I arrived. At the time of her death, I was asked about her marital status, which was "divorced". My eldest sister went to the funeral home and changed her status to "widowed" without any documentation. The only "Will" is handwritten, by our mother, on the back of a medical booklet. There is a third daughter, who was adopted by another family as an adult.
I'm confused by the laws and cases I've read online, provided by several search engines. As many cases of a simple handwritten will, without witnesses, have been shown to have been won by the persons named in the handwritten Will.
I've contacted the County, they state there is no Will on record.

First, what documentation do I need to have the "Property Deed" turned over to myself?

Second, Do I need a letter/statement from my eldest sister stating she has no interest in the property?

Third, the eldest sister has refused to pay any portion of the property taxes, nothing towards the cleanup &/or repairs of the property(our mother was a classic hoarder) and no help with any of the above. I've tried several times to contact my sister via email and text message, with no response.

Fourth, I have the certified Death Certificate, the current taxes due bill, a pile of examples of our mothers handwriting, the hand written Will and the bank papers showing that our mother wanted my eldest sister removed from her account and myself added to it.

I traveled from FL to NY, giving up my life there to care for our mother. My sister lives just an hour and a half away and has been here a total of 5 times since I arrived in Sept 2011. What legal grounds do I have to fight for this property? There is no money, no valuables besides the property itself. In fact, there is a stack of our mothers bills that I have been paying down, with no input/aid from anyone else.

Thank you in advance for any input, it's very much appreciated.

#2 harrylime

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:09 AM

You need to consult with a New York probate attorney.

In New York:

(2) A will is holographic when it is written entirely in the
handwriting of the testator, and is not executed and attested in
accordance with the formalities prescribed by 3-2.1.


However, New York only recognizes holographic wills in certain circumstances:

(b ) A nuncupative or holographic will is valid only if made by:
(1) A member of the armed forces of the United States while in actual
military or naval service during a war, declared or undeclared, or other
armed conflict in which members of the armed forces are engaged.
(2) A person who serves with or accompanies an armed force engaged in
actual military or naval service during such war or other armed
conflict.
(3) A mariner while at sea.


Therefore, your mother would be considered to have died without a will and her estate, after probate administration expenses and any creditors are paid, would be distributed in accordance with New York's intestate succession statute. Your eldest sister would be entitled to a share of the estate. The adoption probably extinguished the right of the adopted daughter's to inherit, but you will want to check on that with the attorney you retain to help you open probate and administer the estate.

Your eldest sister can disclaim her share of the state if she wishes, but she has to take affirmative action to do so.



...the hand written Will and the bank papers showing that our mother wanted my eldest sister removed from her account and myself added to it.


Since you state that there is no money, I am not certain what you are referring to. But, if your sister was a co-owner of a bank account and ownership passed to her by right of survivorship, you may have grounds to contend that such an outcome was not your mother's intention and ask the court to order your sister to return the funds to the probate estate.

You have gotten yourself into a hole here by not addressing this sooner. Do not delay further.

#3 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:16 AM

Thank you very much for your input. The issue of the bank account/s is, that the old bank account had my sister on it, though she was not actively protecting our mothers interests/keeping tabs on what was/was not paid. That account was closed and a new one opened with only my mother and myself on it. There was no money involved, as all her cash was spent on paying down past bills accumulated by a caretaker not making appropriate payments and spending all the money without receipts.

My morning will be spent looking for an attorney that may possibly take this case pro bono, as I have zero income and zero money after spending every penny I had to attempt to clean up this hoarded mess.

Again, Thank You!

#4 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:01 AM

Also, would it be considered "abandonement" of the property, by my sister, for not paying her share of the taxes?

#5 harrylime

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:14 AM

No. From what you have said, she is not an owner yet (and neither are you) and under no obligation to pay property taxes.

#6 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:23 AM

Without an attorney to represent this issue, if the taxes are not paid, then the property will go to tax auction.

Any pro bono Probate Attorney's out there that would take this case on?

#7 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 07:43 AM

Any pro bono Probate Attorney's out there that would take this case on?


You may wish to use the Probate & Estate Administration Lawyers Directory to locate a local lawyer willing to address your claim.

#8 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 08:10 AM

Thank you very much! I'm at aloss as to what to do. If the property goes to auction, I'll be left homeless, living in my car.
Have a Great Day!

#9 Fallen

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 08:11 AM

An attorney won't do this for free (unless it's a friend of a friend).

I'm not sure of the purpose talking about a bank account that was closed before your mom died.

"My eldest sister went to the funeral home and changed her status to "widowed" without any documentation."

I don't see what the point is of mentioning this.

You can read here about inheritance rights from birth parents post-adoption:

http://law.onecle.co...OM0117_117.html

"First, what documentation do I need to have the "Property Deed" turned over to myself?"

You're way-y-y-y ahead of yourself, I'm afraid. (We cannot know from here if your mother's estate is debtless such that you can even contemplate keeping the property.)

Sister has no obligation to pay for maintenance of the property.

Your sister's relationship with her mother isn't relevant in terms of what you did vs. what she did.

If the house is paid for, I'd look for attorneys who will wait to be paid unless and until you can either sell the house or get a mortgage against its value (or sell other things of value to come up with the costs of probating the estate if need be; you don't say how much the house is worth, but there may be a small estate process available depending on value of estate).

I'll echo PG's advisory "warning" with a twist: (Many) legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here might not fully identify or explain the ramifications of your particular problem. I do not give legal advice as such (and such is impermissible here at any rate). Comments are based on personal knowledge and experience and legal info gleaned over a quarter century, and every state has differing laws on and avenues to address most topics.  If you need legal advice, you need to consult (and pay) a professional so that you may have someone to hold accountable.  Acting on personal and informational advice from a stranger on the internet is a bad idea -- at least not without your own thorough due dilience/research and confirmation as it applies to your situation.  :)


#10 Ravensrun65

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 08:26 AM

The purpose of posting about the old bank account vs the new one is that our mother wanted me to have the property, not my sister. It shows her pattern of removing my sister from any rights to anything of our mothers. The house is a property that was once a bar(still has a bar, walk-in cooler, etc)with an apartment on the second floor. Somewhere along the line, over the last 12 years, the county tax office has the property listed as a 1 bedroom house, not a mixed use property. The value, right now is based upon that listing. Less than $80K. If relisted as a mixed use or a 2 family(with appropriate updating/reconstruction)the value would be well over $180K, according to current comparables in this area. The only debts are utilities, taxes and a few medical bills, all totalling less than $4K.




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