My father died intestate. His homestead was entirely in my father's name alone. The judge ruled that my step mother would have a life estate of my father's homestead and my brother and I (remaindermen) would inherit the homestead upon her death. My step mother found a way to get the deed to my father's homestead transferred solely to her name. How do we protect our inheritance?
More clarification is needed as to how you determined your stepmother got a deed and now holds the property in fee simple. If that is in fact true you need to hire an attorney to review the matter since she would not have the right to hold the property without your remaindermen interests remaining. The only way I see that she could have potentially done it was not paid the taxes or mortgage and bought the property at the sale but she would still be liable for the loss of your interests since those obligations were hers to pay as a life tenant.
This answer does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. The answer is for information purposes only and is based on the limited information you provided.
There are many other questions that need to be answered here. However, I am assuming since there was a Judge involved that there was some sort of Probate Administration/Proceeding. Was there actually a new deed or were the property records merely updated to show her name? Without getting much more info and seeing the docket it is hard to give you any sort of answer or guidance. I recommend contacting a probate attorney in your area either through the answers posted on this site or through the search feature above. However, based off of limited information, here is my two cents:
There should have just been an Order from the court that was recorded that indicated that the ownership was a life estate with you and your brother as the remaindermen. This would update the property records to show her as the current owner (w/ a life estate). There should not be a deed in this situation. If the property records merely show her name, that is alright and will usually indicate (L/E for Life Estate or something similar after her name) However, if there was a deed it needs to be reviewed and investigated by a probate attorney.
I hope this helps.
My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given by an attorney who agrees to represent you, who reviews the facts of your specific case, who does not have a conflict of interest preventing the representation, and who is licensed as an attorney in the state where the law applies.
The best answer to your question is to quickly retain an attorney with experience in property and probate matters. There are likely time constraints that may be imposed on your ability to challenge the circumstances, so a review by an attorney is imperative. How this situation can be corrected is not know based on your description, but a qualified attorney will be able to sort through the documentation and prescribe a course of action. It may involve court proceedings to undo what the step mother did. Best of luck to you.
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