I took care of my grandfather. Do I have rights to his estate?

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Q. I’ve lived in my grandfather’s house for seven years as I cared for him and now that he’s died, I am being asked by my father to leave and clear out my possessions. What are my rights as a potential beneficiary of his estate?
— Grandson

A. We’re sorry to hear about your grandfather.

We’re guessing you lived there rent-free in exchange for taking care of him.

This is all about what your grandfather put in writing and what his will says, if he had a will.

You should ask your family to see a copy of the will, and if they won’t show you, go to your county surrogate to see if your father was appointed the executor or administrator of the estate, said Nancy Heslin Reading, an estate planning attorney with Reading Law Firm in Newton.

If your dad hasn’t been appointed, he does not have the authority to make you leave, she said.

As for being a potential beneficiary, either you are or you aren’t.

You may have received a notice of probate that may have indicated if you were a beneficiary. If you didn’t, you can request a copy from the surrogate for a fee, Reading said.

If you’re not in the will — which would be entirely legal — then you are not a beneficiary, she said.

If there is no will, the intestacy statute would apply. Assuming your grandfather was not married, his estate would go to his children.

“Under the New Jersey probate code, spouses cannot be disinherited,” she said. “Other than that, no one has any rights to an estate, and that comes as a surprise to many people.”

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This story was originally published on Sept. 17, 2020.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.