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HH52

No will and probate

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My Mom died in 2010 and did not have a will. She owned a home that is solely in her name since 1976. It is still in her name and my step-dad pays the taxes on it. In 1979 she married my step-dad. My 3 siblings and I were never adopted by my step-dad. 

 

My step-dad said we needed to sign paperwork and have it notarized so he could close her sole bank account or the bank would keep the money. We signed the papers and he closed the account and keep the money. Her safe deposit box remained open as he could not find the key to open it. I am not sure if it is still open. While my Mom was in the hospital he wrote out checks to himself from her sole account and signed her name and cashed them. This was her account that her Social Security money went into. She was in the hospital for 6 months prior to her death and had not assessed her account for several months prior to her death. She also did not sign these checks or even know about them.

 

She had 3 life insurance policies, I think my step-dad is only aware of two. The one had my sister and one of my brothers as the beneficiaries. My siblings signed over the checks to my step-dad and he got the money. I guess one other one was in his name, not sure about the third. I would like to point out that my sister suffers from severe depression and was medicated when he took her to the bank to sign over the check that was made out to her, over to him.

 

I contacted a lawyer to find out our rights to property in Mom's home because he was throwing things and not letting us have anything. I also wanted to know about the house. He never answered my questions and sent me a bill. That was in 2012. This created problems with my brothers and I because they did not want to spend money to fight my step-dad. As a result, my brothers have not spoken to me since 2012 when this happened. My sister said she will just wait until our step-dad  dies and then go in the house and get things. Well, he has thrown away almost everything now.

 

In 2012, my step-dad yelled at me on the phone after he said he threw away things and my sister was upset. He told me to never come to the house again that I was not welcome. We have never gotten along, he is abusive. I moved out as a teen because of him at the end of 11th grade and completed my senior year on my own. 

 

People tell me that since we never opened an estate that when my step-dad dies that the house will go to the state of Iowa. My step-dad never had any children and all his siblings have died. He obviously lied to me and my siblings. He has had a gambling problem for years. I worry that he may have borrowed on Mom's house. I found a letter from his lawyer that said since Mom did not have a will that he gets 50% and the other 50% is divided between us four children. This letter was with the papers he had us sign to get the bank account money. My siblings have never seen the letter. I had trouble even getting the paper signed as it did not say what I was signing. It just was a page that listed my information and my sister's information with room for the notary. There was another page that my brothers signed. I found these papers months after the bank account was closed.

 

#1- Is it too late to do anything now?

#2- Will the state of Iowa get the house once our step-dad dies?

#3-Do any of his family members have any right to the house or any contents?

#4- Could he borrow on the house and/or get a reverse mortgage?

#5-Did my siblings and I have rights to Mom's belongings and house contents? Do we now?

#6-Couldn't he be charged for writing out checks on my Mom's account to himself ans cashing them while she was in the hospital?

#7- What can I do about the safety deposit box if it is still there?

#8- Is there a way to find out if Mom has a third life insurance policy out there?

#9- Could my sister do something about him taking her to the bank while she was ill to have her sign the check over to him?

 #10-Do I have any rights as far as being able to be in Mom's house now? 

#11- There are 2 cars also. What happens to the cars after my step-dad dies?

 

I should have done something a long time ago. I lived 2000 miles away and it was not easy to deal with. My step-dad was counting on that. My siblings never will to anything. It has been an upsetting situation. A friend told me I could have hired a lawyer and they would have gotten paid from the money from selling the house. Is that true? Any other information you could give me would be greatly appreciated. I think my siblings feel they can just wait until he dies and go into the house and things will be fine. I know the contents that Mom had are gone. Things that were in the family long before him.

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1 hour ago, HH52 said:

People tell me that since we never opened an estate that when my step-dad dies that the house will go to the state of Iowa.

 

That's silly.  What people told you this?

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Is it too late to do anything now?

 

You can always do something, but it's been nine years.  About the only realistic thing you can do is consult with a local attorney about the house that (presumably) still stands in your mother's name.  The problem is that, under Iowa's intestate law (i.e., the law that says who gets what when someone dies without a will), your stepfather did inherit or should have inherited a one-half interest in the house and the greater of one half of the rest of your mother's estate or $50,000.  You and your siblings should have split the balance of the estate (if anything).  Therefore, at this point, the best you can hope for is that you and your siblings will co-own the home with your stepfather.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Will the state of Iowa get the house once our step-dad dies?

 

No reason to believe that.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Do any of his family members have any right to the house or any contents?

 

Currently?  Of course not.  When he dies, his property will be divided in accordance with the terms of his will or Iowa intestate law.  After so much time, it will be presumed that all of the contents of the house belong to him and, as mentioned above, he inherited or should inherit a one-half interest in the house.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Could he borrow on the house and/or get a reverse mortgage?

 

In the abstract, virtually anything is possible.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Did my siblings and I have rights to Mom's belongings and house contents? Do we now?

 

See above, but it's probably now too late to do anything about anything other than the house.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Couldn't he be charged for writing out checks on my Mom's account to himself ans cashing them while she was in the hospital?

 

Even if he did this, and even if you could prove it so far after the fact, the statute of limitations likely has expired after so much time.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

What can I do about the safety deposit box if it is still there?

 

You're free to inquire with the bank about its existence and status.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Is there a way to find out if Mom has a third life insurance policy out there?

 

I believe there's some sort of searchable database that you probably can find by googling, but after so much time, its entirely possible that any unclaimed proceeds have escheated to the state.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Could my sister do something about him taking her to the bank while she was ill to have her sign the check over to him?

 

Almost certainly not.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

Do I have any rights as far as being able to be in Mom's house now?

 

No.  You will have to seek to probate her estate or otherwise seek to have title put into your and your siblings' and your stepfather's names.  If that happens, then each of you will have the right to possess the premises.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

There are 2 cars also. What happens to the cars after my step-dad dies?

 

No way to know unless you want to provide some relevant facts.

 

 

1 hour ago, HH52 said:

I should have done something a long time ago.

 

You're right, and nothing's going to happen now unless you consult with a lawyer in the area where the house is located.

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pg1067 thank you for your reply. Several friends have told me the house would go to the state after my step-dad dies. I was also told that you only have 5 years to open an estate. I will contact a local lawyer to see if my siblings and I can do anything at this point.

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11 hours ago, HH52 said:

Several friends have told me the house would go to the state after my step-dad dies.

 

Well...I suspect your friends are not lawyers and have no working knowledge of the laws of Iowa or any other state.  I'd be awfully curious to know why they think this might happen.  Anyway...

 

There are basically three ways that a piece of real property might "go to the state" after the owner of the property dies (maybe someone else will think of another that I'm not thinking of).  The first involves failure to pay property taxes, but that's not limited to situations involving dead people, and the property doesn't really "go to the state."  Rather, the property is auctioned off (typically by the county, not the state).  The second involves situations in which a person dies and has no close relatives, in which case the property will escheat to the state.  This happens only very rarely.  The third involves a situation in which a person owes money to the state and the state sues, gets a judgment and enforces the judgment against the property.  Again, this isn't limited to dead people and would involve an auction, so the property doesn't really "go to the state."  This is also extremely uncommon.

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pg1067 you are correct the friends that told me the state would take the house are not lawyers.  I was also told that you only have 5 years to open an estate and since we didn't it is too late to do anything about the house or other belongings. Thank you for your help. 

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I don't have much to add to PG1067's comments so I'll be brief.

 

There are two services through which you can search for life insurance policies. The first if free. The second is fee based.

 

https://www.naic.org/documents/consumer_alert_locate_lost_life_insurance_benefit.htm

 

http://www.mib.com/lost_life_insurance.html

 

Confirm the ownership of the house by getting copies of the deed(s) from whatever government agency keeps those records. Often called the County Recorder, Hall of Records, County Clerk, Land Records Office, etc. Many such agencies have online search features. Look for any deeds in her name and get copies. You wrote that the home is still in her name but, without the deeds sitting in front of you, you can't be sure of that. He seems like the manipulative sort who might have been able to convince her to add his name to her deed with right of survivorship. If that happened then the house is already his.

 

 

 

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