I took care of my grandfather. Do I have rights to his estate?

Q. I lived in my grandfather’s house for seven years while taking care of him and now that he is dead my father is asking me to leave and empty my belongings. What are my rights as a potential beneficiary of his estate?

– Grandson

A. We are sorry to hear about your grandfather.

We assume that you lived there rent free in exchange for taking care of him.

It’s about what your grandfather wrote down and what his will says, if he had one.

You should ask your family to see a copy of the will, and if they don’t show you go see your county deputy to see if your father was appointed on executor or administrator of the estate, said Nancy Heslin Reading, an estate planning lawyer at Reading law firm in Newton.

If your father hasn’t been named, he doesn’t have the power to get you to leave, she said.

As for being a potential beneficiary, either you are or you are not.

You may have received a probate notice stating whether you were a Beneficiary. If you haven’t, you can request a copy from the surrogate for a fee, Reading said.

If you are not in the will – which would be perfectly legal – then you are not a Beneficiary, she said.

If there is no will, the intestate status would apply. Assuming your grandfather was not married, his estate would go to his children.

“Under the New Jersey probate code, spouses cannot be disinherited,” she said. “Other than that, no one has an estate claim, and that surprises a lot of people.”

Email your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes on Bamboo column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com‘s weekly electronic newsletter.


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