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Man considering probate litigation against his stepfather

When an Illinois estate owner executes a plan that includes provisions regarding a home — in particular, who might live in it when the time comes to administer the estate, it often specifies the name of a spouse, adult child or other family member. It seems like it should all be relatively simple, meaning the person listed in a final will as being permitted to live in a house does so and everyone is happy. That is not always how things work out, however, especially if another family member is not satisfied with the situation. A man in another state recently wrote to an advice column to ask whether or not he has grounds to pursue probate litigation against his stepfather.

The man’s mother died and she left all her assets to him, including her debt-free house, after his stepfather also dies. In the meantime, however, in her final will, the woman granted permission to her spouse to live in her home, provided he pay for upkeep, taxes and insurance premiums. Upon remarriage, the man would have to pay rent to the son. The son claims that his stepfather refuses to pay for anything; the stepfather says the son has cheated him. 

The advice columnist wrote that state law has bearing on such situations. In this particular case, the state in question not only automatically allows the widower to remain in the house rent-free for the rest of his life, it also does not state that, if he remarries, he must start paying rent. What’s more, the son appears to be the one who is legally obligated to pay insurance premiums.  

If a man or woman in Illinois is facing a similar situation, it makes good sense to confer with an experienced probate litigation attorney before determining a best course of action. Such situations can be quite complicated and can take weeks or months, if not longer, to resolve in court. It is unfortunate when family members fight over a loved one’s final will and testament, but it is definitely not uncommon.