Is there any way we can find out if the will shows my husband as receiving the house?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 03, 2016
Swex830 asked...

My father in law was recently diagnosed with Parkinsons and dementia. His new wife had told my husband several months ago that the family home was being left to him in my father in laws will. Now she says that was not true, it was never in the will, and she is selling the home. Is there any way we can find out if indeed the will shows my husband as receiving the house? If it does, as his power of attorney can she change the will?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

A person authorized as a power of attorney for another does not have the legal authority to change another person's will. But if your father-in-law retains the required legal capacity"”that is, he is able to understand what property he owns and who he would like to receive it"”then he is free to change the will on his own.

But the will may not be the document that controls in this situation, since wills and the promises made in them have no legal effect until the willmaker's death. What may be more telling is how that title to the home is held. Here's one scenario: IF your father owns sole title to the home, or he and his new wife own it jointly AND she is authorized to take over as his agent because he lacks legal capacity AND the power of attorney document authorizes her to buy and sell his property if need be, then she may be within her legal rights to do so.

I'm assuming your father-in-law is unable or unwilling to give you the answers to the questions you seek, and that you feel his wife is giving you the run-around about the real ownership of the house. Since there may be a lot at stake here, it may be worth your while to check out the title document. These are public records"”and copies are available at the local registrar of deeds, title department at the local court, or other property title company. The names differ by locale; the local city hall should be able to direct you to the proper source.

If you suspect that your father's wife has been illegally tinkering with his will or other controlling documents, that may amount to elder abuse or fraud"”and you might consider enlisting the help of an attorney experienced in estate planning issues to protect him and the property interests at stake.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Barbara, I follow your Q&As regularly, and really appreciate your direct, easy to understand, responses.