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Can my step-children fight me in court for their perceived inheritance? Property was left with my name on it.

Walnut Creek, CA |

Real Estate was held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship. His previous wife and him had a Will dated 1980 leaving all property to each other and then going to the 4 children upon death of last surviving parent. They appointed each other executor and specified that executor "may sell, lease, or encumber any part of my estate at such prices and on such terms and conditions as to her or him may seem advisable, and may petition the court for authority to administer my estate under the Independent Administration or Estates Act."
I was married to my husband for more than 20 years and his wish to was to make sure I was taken care of and therefore added my name to the property. Our banking accounts were also joint and I was the beneficiary on those accounts. Do I have a problem?

Attorney Answers 3


You'll need a local attorney. I've had a similar situation happen to a client in Texas. The surviving spouse was successful against the step-children, but the success was painful. Condolences on the loss of your husband.

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There are four elements for a valid joint tenancy with right-of-survivorship: (1)Time - the co-owners must acquire the property at the same time; (2) Title - the co-owners must have the same title to the property; (3)Interest - each co-owner owns an equal share of the property; and (4) Possession - the co-owners must have an equal right to possess the whole property. Assuming all of these elements are satisfied without challenge, and the operative words creating the joint tenancy with right-of-survivorship where used in the granting instrument, you should not have a problem. If you have concerns you should consult a real estate attorney and ask him to review your deed and your specific circumstances.

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If your spouse held the property with his first wife as tenants by the entirety, then he became the 100% owner of the property upon her death. He was then free to re-deed the property to you and him as joint tenants.

Because the deed specified a joint tenancy, it passes outside of the will.

I am not a CA attorney, laws vary from state to state, therefore you should always consult a local attorney.

If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.

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