She has a son who won't give me more information other than to ask for payment to be made to him now. Is that legal even though we have no lease?
If you are a tenant - even if you don't have a lease, you cannot be forced to leave without notice. Whether you're entitled to 30 days' notice or 60 days' notice depends on certain factors such as the length of time you've resided in the property (that question would best be answered by a real estate lawyer familiar with eviction or "unlawful detainer" proceedings). Having a lease or not having a lease does not affect your rights to receive notice.
You say your landlady did not have a will and that her estate is in probate. Assuming that someone has already been appointed by the Court (probably her son) as the "executor" or the "administrator, then that person does have the legal right to collect the rent (although I would strongly suggest that you make your rent checks out to the "ESTATE OF [Landlady's Name]". I absolutely would NOT make the rent checks out to the name of the son personally - he does NOT have any right to those checks until a court confirms that he's entitled to receive the estate.
I would also suggest something else: there is a form called a "Request for Special Notice" that can be filed in a probate proceeding. You can find a copy of the form here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/de154.pdf
If you fill this form out and send an original signature copy to the Court and a signed photocopy to the executor/administrator, you will be entitled to receive information regarding the progress of the probate proceeding. You will need to know the case number, but you may be able to find it online here: http://sonoma.courts.ca.gov/online-services/recent-cases
You can search for "recently filed cases" under the probate heading by inserting your landlady's last name and then hitting "search".
That will give you the case number and also the name of the law firm helping the executor/administrator with the probate.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
No,, there is no such thing as squatters rights if you are a tenant. If there was no will, the landlady's estate will have to go through probate.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
I agree with Mr. Chen. Also, since you have no written lease you can be asked to leave. You should think ahead here and find a new place immediately. Have that place set up and then ask if the executor (son) will enter into a lease. If he says no you are covered with the new place you found.
Hope this helps.
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