Transfer of home ownership upon death

mens divorce lawyer William BackerQuestion:

We live in a house that is currently in my mother-in-law’s name but will be inherited by my wife, according to her mother’s will.

My wife and I have discussed divorce and she claims that I have no ownership interest in the property despite the years of renovations I personally have done to the house.

Is she correct that I have no claim to the value of this house?


I do not practice in your state. Therefore, I cannot inform you as to the specific laws of North Carolina. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys who are licensed in North Carolina who would be willing to discuss the specific facts of your case with you.

With the facts that you have described, at this time as long as your wife’s mother is still living, your wife does not have any recognizable property ownership interest in the house.  The property was deeded to your mother-in-law and the property belongs to her.

Even though she may have executed a will in which she designates that upon her death, the property shall pass to your wife, as long as your mother-in-law is living, she can change the terms of her will and your wife would have no recourse against her for her doing so. In addition, if your wife were to die while your mother-in-law is still living, your wife would not ever inherit the house.

If your mother-in-law dies before your wife, and your wife inherits the house, the house would not be considered marital property. It would be your wife’s own separate property. Property obtained by inheritance is considered separate property.

Since your wife does not have any recognizable property interest in the house at this time, there is no way that you could claim a recognizable property interest in the residence. The work you have done to the residence does not create any type of ownership interest unless there was some sort of a written contract which specifies that.

You should consult with an attorney that specializes in domestic litigation and is licensed to practice in your state.


William F. Backer is an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell where he practices domestic relations exclusively. Mr. Backer is licensed in the State of Missouri. Mr. Backer received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with emphasis in Accounting, from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He then went on to receive his Juris Doctor from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1999.

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