Wow. I think you are both badly in need of legal representation. If the property was homesteaded, the spouse would have the right to remain there for the rest of her life. It appears she has abandoned that, but that is something you need to make sure of. The last thing you want to do is pour a lot of money into this and then have the spouse show up and move back in.
I would have an attorney look at this as soon as possible.
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I agree with Mr. Frederick. It sounds as though you and your brother are in need of legal representation. Such expenses (costs of administering the Estate, including attorney fees) will come out of the Estate, so it would be a good idea for your brother hire an attorney before any important deadlines or other legal determinations are made.
As far as the Order Determining Homestead, this is a legal and binding determination of who is entitled to possession and/or ownership of the Property. Without knowing your specific facts, nor knowing what the Order states, it is hard to provide any analysis.
To reiterate from before, your brother (assuming he is the designated Personal Representative) should contact a local probate attorney to assist with this Estate.
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My colleagues are both correct. If you are looking to become knowledgable and involved at this point, you and your brother should go consult with a local probate attorney. You need to take all of your documentation with you so that the analysis can be detailed. From the analysis, you will be able to get direction on how to proceed. As for the above meanings, the order determining homestead is likely the court seeking to determine who the appropriate title holder is or whether the surviving spouse had filed a homestead. As for the life estate question, the court is probably seeking to determine if the surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate in the property. That would meant that she has the right to possession of the property until she dies. You need a local probate attorney for assistance, don't delay.
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