My mother gifted her home to me and my husband about 8 years ago, and all the contents of the home remained, there is nothing in her will that states anything about the home contents and no effort on her part was made to remove anything from the house itself. She died a year ago and now the question is whether we own all the contents of the house. Since it was gifted to us do we own the contents once she signed over all ownership rights through a quit claim deed?
Real Estate Attorney
A deed would generally only convey title to the real property and improvements and fixtures, not to personal property. However, the language of the deed could possibly indicate otherwise. Further, it would be helpful to examine the specific words in the will to see if there is any indication as to her intent. I recommend consulting with an attorney familiar with probate and real estate law about the specifics of your situation.
I am not your attorney. My response is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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Elder Law Attorney
A deed in and of itself governs real estate not tangible personal property such as contents that aren't permanently affixed to the home. However, no particular document is required to convey house contents. Therefore, the question is whether evidence indicates that your mom intended to convey or retain the contents when she deeded the house. Of course, things like will terms, conversations, and other circumstances would determine the actual result, but I would guess that all other things being equal, a court would rule that you own the contents if your mother gifted the house to you and evidence does not indicate that she intended the contents to pass to anyone else. See a local elder law attorney for further details.
Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (L.L.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit SpecialNeedsNJ.com for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax and SpecialNeedsNJ.com/blog for timely updates. Information on both Avvo and SpecialNeedsNJ.com does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.
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Mr. Steinacker and Mr. Friedman give you good advice. The law here in NY, where I practice, would reap the same results -- a bequest of a house would not, in and of itself, necessarily connote that the contents of the house are also bequeathed.
You say that the will does not state anything about the contents. My guess, however, is that the will does address the issue, either by referring to "personal property" or within the residuary clause (that's the clause that says "all the residue and remainder" of the testator's property is bequeathed to this person or that person).
Show the will to an attorney. Or, if an attorney was used to probate the will, speak to that attorney.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
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Quit claim deeds generally do not speak to personal property, they only convey real property. There are many possible legal issues implied in your question, including abandonment of property, the passage of time, your mother's stated intentions in her will and elsewhere, what the value of the possession are, who is making a claim on the personal property, and so on. You really should see an attorney if anyone is making a claim on the property and it is of much value.
This information is intended as general information only, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please seek particular advice from an attorney.
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