I recently separated (not living together) from my husband of 16 years. We have two children and a home in Maryland. My husband and brother-in-law inherited land and real property in NC, which I was not aware of until today. He sold the land to a developer in September 2010 and forge documents to sell my potential interest out from underneath me. However, he gave power of attorney to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to sign on my behalf at closing, which I didn't give any consent or power of attorney to sell the land. He spent our entire portion of the money from the sale of the land to pay off a small-business debt he incurred in Maryland. Can I file charges against my husband for fraud? Is it possible to sue him for my portion of the family money? Was the sale of the land legitimate since I didn't consent to the sale? Should I contact the company who settled the sale of the land? How should I handle this?
Whether in "community property" states like CA or "equitable distribution" states like MD, spouses don't have any interest in property inherited by the other spouse, it's the inheriting spouse's separate property. Because his business was probably something thatyou did have an interest in, it seems he did you a favor by using his own eparate property to pay off some of your debt, so you shouldn't complain.
If theres more to your story, see a family or business lawyer.
I'm only licensed in CA. Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
Your question raises a number of interesting legal issues.
Firstly, you say that your husband and his brother inherited the property in NC. You do not say how you obtained an interest in the property. Under Maryland law, property inherited is not marital property. Therefore, under Maryland law, unless your husband had the property conveyed into your and his name or the property was left to you and your husband jointly, you did not have an interest in the property. However, as the property was located in NC, it is quite possible (note: I have not researched this and am not licensed in NC) that NC has a statute that provides that a wife has a dower interest in real property titled in the name of her husband and, therefore, the wife needs to convey her dower interest along with the husband's interest. (A dower interest is derived from English Law which entitles a wife to a third of the value to real property owned by the husband upon the death of the husband. This protected widows from being left destitute since women could not own real property at the time of the institution of the law.) If this is the case or if the property was titled in your name (along with your husband, his brother and his brother's wife), then you have an action against your husband.
Secondly, the type of action that you can bring will depend upon a few factors. If you want the transaction undone, then you will need to file in NC and include the buyers of the property as parties to the action. If the buyers were not aware of the fraud, then you most likely will not be able to undo the transaction. Alternatively, you could file a suit in Maryland or NC against your husband for damages. The damages could be calculated in a number of manners. For example, you could seek the fair value of your interest in the property at the time of the sale.
Criminal charges would be up to the State's Attorney's Office. If your husband's actions were done in Maryland, then Maryland may be able to prosecute him. Alternatively, and most likely, he would have to be prosecuted in NC.
I strongly suggest you speak with an attorney.
Please be advised that any information or advice given herein does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Further, before taking any actions or deciding not to take any actions, you should seek counsel of an attorney. This forum cannot provide you with the anyalysis and detail necessary for a full and accurate opinion to be rendered.
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Divorce / Separation Lawyer
The was inherited, so how were you harmed? Plus, it sounds as if he paid off marital debt with some of the proceeds, so you may have benefitted.
As for a forged signature, if he did that, he might have a problem from a criminal law standpoint, but that doesn't help you in this situation. And I'm sure he say that you authorized him to sign your name, or that was in the ordinary course during the marriage.
Legal disclaimer: In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.