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Q&A Series: How Long Can Relative Live in House After Death of Owner?

Question in Eau Claire, Wisconsin about how long a relative can live in a house after the death of the owner

Consumer Question:

A relative lives in my dads house. Can they continue to live there after he dies or how soon do they need to move out?

My dad lives in Wisconsin. He owns a mortgage. My mom is deceased. A close relative lives in the upstairs. There is no contract that says they can live there and this person does not does not pay rent or anything towards the utilities. When my dad dies, does the relative need to move out immediately or do they have the opportunity to live there until they want to move out? Also, does the Personal Representative have the authority to tell them they need to move out and then change the locks so that no one can go in an remove anything without the Representative being present?

Attorney Thomas B. Burton Response:

If your Dad has passed, then the house belongs to his Estate. If your Dad had a Will, the house will pass to the heirs he chose in his Will. You mentioned the term Personal Representative, so I am going to assume that there was a Personal Representative named under the Will. The Personal Representative is responsible for administering the Estate and making sure your Dad's wishes, as laid out in his Will are followed. If you Dad died without a Will, then he died intestate and his estate will pass according to the laws of intestacy. In either case, a Personal Representative will need to be appointed. The first step is for the person having possession of the Will to take the Will down to the courthouse to file it with the Register in Probate. Then the Letters Testamentary can be issued to the Personal Representative in order for the Personal Representative to begin administering the Estate. At that point, unless the Will states otherwise, it will be up to the Personal Representative to determine how long the relative living in the upstairs of the house has before they must move out and vacate the property. If the Will states that the relative may stay a certain period of time rent free, or something similar, then the Personal Representative must abide by this. However if the Will is silent on this issue, then it is likely up to the Personal Representative to determine when the relative should move out etc. I recommend that you sit down with a qualified probate and estate planning attorney in your area to discuss how to best handle this situation. I have changed the category of this question to "Probate" to help you get more relevant answers.

I just read your question again and it sounds like your Dad is still alive, but has the relative living with him currently. In this situation I recommend that your Dad update his Will or Trust to spell out the terms of how long the relative can live in the house after he passes. The best method would be to form a Trust, transfer the house to the Trust, and then use the Trust document to state the terms of how long (if any period of time) the relative has to live in the house after your Dad's death. I recommend sitting down with a qualified estate planning attorney in your area to discuss your options.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. You should seek a consultation with a licensed attorney in your area if you seek a complete review and discussion of your situation.

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