Real estate holdings are often the most coveted assets involved in an estate. When a loved one dies, they may choose to leave the family home to one person or more specific persons. They may also direct the executor of their estate to sell the home and split the proceeds of the sale between the various beneficiaries. In some cases, if the home has historical value, a person may direct that the property be donatd to a historical charity or local nonprofit.
In many cases, the surviving spouse of the deceased will continue to reside in the home until they pass away. If there is no spouse, sometimes other family members may feel like they have a right to live in the home. Unlike a spouse, whose residency rights may be protected under marital property laws, children and other extended family members or friends have little claim to the house of a loved one when they die.
Some people will refuse to leave because they don’t like the terms of the will
Many people have unrealistic expectations about what they are entitled to receive from the administration of an estate. They may feel they are entitled to inherit the house outright, even if they have siblings or the deceased has a surviving spouse. Sometimes, this can lead to individuals moving into the property to prevent the property from being sold or donated to keep the property for themselves. During times of economic hardship, some family members may also feel like they should be able to live in the property without paying rent because no one else is using the property.
It can be a very difficult situation to deal with. Whether the individuals in question lived in the property prior to the death of your loved one or they moved in shortly afterward, they don’t really have a legal right to be there unless the deceased granted it to them in their estate or in writing prior to their death. The only exception is potentially for the spouse of the deceased, who has different rights regarding property than other heirs or family members.
Adding to the problem of unwelcome tenants is the potential for spautters (random strangers) to break into the property to set up residence in the property to establish tenancy rights. As the housing crisis in California increases, vacant homes going through the probate process are sometimes targeted by individuals looking for a free place to live.
If there is someone living in a home that you, as the executor, have a duty to sell, you may need to take steps to evict those people from the property.
The longer someone squats, the harder getting rid of them can be
Some people will put off dealing with the home for as long as possible, hoping that the people living there without permission will grow tired of the conflict and leave. Although their unauthorized presence probably won’t impact ownership, it could cause legal issues.
The more time someone else legally lives or squats in a property, the harder it can be to get rid of them. They will have personal property that they will need to gather up and remove. If it goes on for too long, they may start to assume you have tacitly given them permission to continue their illegal possession of the property.
It can be difficult for an administrator to handle the more complex parts of an estate, such as real estate transactions. The best way to avoid conflict is to be up front with everyone regarding what the will provides for. If everyone knows immediately that the will directs for the home to be sold and must be vacant, that can make it easier to avoid conflicts.