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Elderlaw: 11/15/2016


Dear Len & Rosie,

The property that my mother is leaving to me upon her death is currently inhabited by other family members. They have chosen to live in filthy conditions and have never cleaned their home in any way and have basically trashed the residence. However, my mother has told me that in her will it is written that it is necessary to give them three months to leave the residence and that they are not responsible for leaving the property in a clean condition. The residence is extremely dirty, especially since they shared their home with four cats that soiled the carpets and flooring. I do not feel that this is fair and I have always been under the impression that each landlord expects their tenants to leave their residence in a clean state and that it is not up to the landlord to incur the costs associated with cleaning out the residence.


Dear Olga,

You are undoubtedly eating your liver over this. Youíre going to inherit a house occupied by slobs who donít pay fair market value rent, and youíll have to tear up the carpet and maybe even replace the floorboards on your own dime. You arenít inheriting a home, youíre inheriting a fixer-upper.

This isnít a typical landlord-tenant relationship. Weíre sure that if the family members living in your motherís rental property werenít family, she would have gotten rid of them by now. But itís your motherís property. She has the right to distribute her property any way she wants to upon her death, and if she wants to give a break to the people youíre going to toss out onto the streets, she can do it.

Keep in mind that you couldnít get them out of the property within 90 days of your motherís death, anyway. They are tenants, and if they have lived there for more than a year you have to give them sixty days notice to terminate their tenancy. And you canít do that until your motherís will is admitted to probate and you are appointed by the judge as executor, and that shall take at least a month after your motherís death.

If your mother creates a trust and transfers the property into it, not only will her assets avoid probate, you, or whoever the successor trustee is, can legally send notice terminating the tenancy of your less than neat and clean relatives. But be very careful while talking to your mother. She could react poorly to your request and give the home to them instead of you.

Len & Rosie

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol are elder law attorneys. Contact them at 846 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, by phone at (707) 996-4505, or on the Internet at Len also answers legal questions each weekday, Noon-1 p.m. and Sundays, 4-7 p.m. on KGO Radio 810 AM.

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