My friend has been living with, and completely supported by a man for the past 23 years. He passed away last Thursday. He always told my friend that she had a place to stay. He said he had set up a Living Trust with his brother outlining this wish. Today the brother's sons came in and changed all the locks and informed her she had a week to move. Can they do this? She doesn't have a copy of the living trust and isn't sure what it says. Regardless, if anything, since California doesn't recognize common law marriage, she should receive the rights of a tenant giving her more notice than one week, right? They have also rifled through the house taking whatever items they wanted, even things of hers. Even though they are family are they allowed to come in and do this?
There's more than one issue here. In terms of the common law marriage issue, you are correct, CA does not recognize common law marriage and therefore your friend is not a legal heir to the man's estate. If she believes she has been provided for in the Living Trust, she needs to get a copy and review it right away. As far as being kicked out of the house and whether she has tenants rights would depend on whether she is on some kind of lease or on the mortgage or can otherwise prove she was a legal tenant. This are of law (landlord/tenant) is outside my area of expertise however and I will defer to others on this issue. As far as taking her items of personal property -- that was inappropriate and illegal. She should contact the family and sort it out, or otherwise obtain legal advice regarding recovering her property or the fair market value of that property.
I agree with Ms. Wasman. I would add that, at the very least, your friend should be given a formal notice to quit the property. If the notice is proper and she fails to move out within the notice period, the property owner will need to file an unlawful detainer (eviction) complaint against her before she will be required to move out.
It's critical that she obtain a copy of the trust; she may have more rights than based on a simple tenancy.
The answer to your question is not intended to provide you with legal advice you should rely on, only a general indication of what the law might provide. You may have provided only a limited description of your situation and I may be unaware of important facts that could affect your case. My answering your question does not create an attorney-client relationship between us.
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