We have had a number of cases recently involving disputes among family members concerning the distribution of the family estate. Those kinds of disputes are unfortunate, and we always endeavor to resolve them quietly, confidentially and in an amicable fashion, such as through mediation or a settlement meeting. Unfortunately, sometimes a case in court is necessary. Recently we had just such a case, with a very successful result for a deserving client.
Our client had devoted his life to caring for his father, and after his passing, for his mother in their later years. He selflessly gave of himself to assist his mother in living the final years of her life, just as she wished, in her own home, as long as she could. He drove her, helped her with her shopping, fixed her meals, took her to the doctor, and rendered all sorts of care and assistance to her. Some years before she passed, our client and his mother purchased as joint tenants with rights of survivorship a home in Baltimore County, which needed substantial repair. Under that form of ownership, when either of them passed, the other would own the property fully as the sole owner. Our client’s sister had a power of attorney to act on the mother’s behalf. She appeared to bear some resentment against our client. Unfortunately, some years later, after their mother was not competent and shortly before her death, the sister changed the title to tenants in common, so that the mother’s interest in the property would instead pass through her estate and to our client, his sister, and to two other siblings. The result of that change in title by the sister was to alter the mother’s intent and to deprive our client of the 100% interest in the property that both he and his mother had intended, if he were to survive her.
There were significant efforts to resolve this case with the sister and her counsel, including a very extended mediation before a privately retained retired judge. Unfortunately, those results were not successful and the case had to be tried before a judge in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. After two days of trial, the Court ruled in favor of our client. The court determined that the family knew that the mother jointly owned this property with our client, and that there was no indication that the mother intended to change the form of ownership. As a result, the court determined that our client was the 100% owner of the property upon his mother’s death, as the deceased mother intended, and the sister’s effort to change the title was declared ineffective.
We were gratified about this result for our client. He had cared for his mom in the later years of her life, and he was entitled to have this property as she intended. We always prefer to resolve these cases quietly and confidentially, but when necessary we will pursue them in court to obtain the relief we believe our clients are entitled to.