This column first appeared in the San Antonio Express-News on April 26, 2016.
Dear Mr. Premack: My mother and father owned a homestead in Bexar County. They told my sister and I that all monies and property was left to us. He died years ago and she passed recently, and we found out that two years ago she gifted our childhood home to the church. This is not what my father intended. Our hearts our broken. Do we have grounds to protest or ask for our childhood home be given back to us girls? – TC
On the surface of your story – that you mother gifted her home to the church two years before she died – it appears that you have no grounds to protest or to get back the home.
But if you dig deeper, there are possibilities. It all depends on the actual background facts. Was your mother unduly influenced to make this gift? Was fraud or duress involved? Was she competent at the time that she signed the documentation? Is the documentation proper, that is, does it really give the house away, or are there reservations in the deed? Did your mother have a Will on which you can base a right to inherit? When your father died, what happened to his half interest in the house? Did he leave it to her, or was it in trust, or were there any restrictions in his Will?
As you can see, the answers to those questions may open the possibility of reclaiming the house or may confirm that the door is shut and locked. You need to have a direct consult with a probate litigation attorney.