My father passed away in Florida and had joint ownership of his home with my stepmother who terminally ill- can she transfer the house to her sister because my father died without a will but orally said it would be left to my family upon her demise?
3 Answers from Attorneys
Once your stepmother becomes the owner of the property she can do with it as she pleases. However, if you can establish with documentary evidence and overwhelming persuasion that it was her understanding that she would only keep the property for life and thereafter give it to your family, you might have a case in court to bring that result about.
I agree with Norman, presuming the Deed had them as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety (JTROS between spouses). In that case, your stepmother became the absolute sole owner and can do whatever she wants, unless, as Norman says, you could prove otherwise. This would be the case even if Dad had a Will, as his Will would only operate on assets he owned individually, not jointly with someone who had survivorship rights. On the other hand, if the Deed said they were tenants in common, which is joint ownership, but without survivorship rights, you may be entitled to part ownership, even if Dad did not have a Will. So, first the Deed must be interpreted as to what type of joint ownership is involved - survivorship or not, and then, if survivorship is involved, what proofs were there, if any, that you would inherit on stepmother's death.
You will need clear and convincing evidence in Florida to overcome the presumption of " joint tenancy with right to survivor".