My wife passed away. The deed to the house is in her name, because the land we built the house on was gifted to her by her mother after we were married. Can I claim the property?
1 Answer from Attorneys
It depends. There are several "what ifs" in play here, so you haven't really provided enough information to answer fully. Still, I'll try to help you out.
Normally, anything a married couple obtains during a marriage is community property, regardless of whose name the property is titled in. In other words, were you or your wife to buy a house or a car during the marriage, it would be community even if only one name was on the deed/title. However, one of the few things that remain separate property during a marriage is property obtained through inheritance or a gift made SOLELY to the party receiving the gift. So, if the property was given as a "wedding present", it was intended for both parties in the marriage. However, if it was specifically given to only her (and especially if you acknowledged in the act of donation that the property was going to be her separate property), it is separate and likely remained separate.
Now, there is also the issue of a will. Did your wife have a will? If she left the property to you in her will, it is yours now. If she had no will, there is a list of heirs who would inherit her separate property, starting with her children. Also, if you lived in the house on her separate property, you may be entitled to usufruct over the property even if it is separate. Lastly, there are issues of what happened after she got the property. You said you built a house on it. Did you mortgage the property? That could make it community. Even if you didn't, the house itself was built with community funds most likely and you would be owed SIGNIFICANT reimbursements on the house.
You really need to find a lawyer and have a discussion about all of this. Any sole practitioner in your area should be able to handle this. Good luck.