Caretaker makes real estate play after owner dies

Without a will, proving gift intention becomes 'heavy burden'

DEAR BENNY: I resided with a 71-year-old male who died in November with no will, but I took care of him since 2002 and lived with him since 2005 because his health was diminishing. His family had basically abandoned him, never visiting or making any type of contact with him. I want to know if there is any way I can keep the house as my residence. We discussed his getting a will, but he died before he could get a lawyer. He was going to leave the house to me. –Carl

DEAR CARL: You have a difficult situation. I have often joked that "when there is a will, there are relatives." And in your case, because there is no will, I suspect that his family will suddenly claim to be his best friend and will want to take possession and title to the house.

When a person dies without a last will and testament, this is called "intestacy." In simple terms, if you do not have a will, the laws in the state where the person died (or in some states where the property is located) will dictate who will get the property.