Dear Moneyist,

My mother and I lived in this home for 48 years. My family was raised here, my kids were raised here, I tried to move out, but my mother’s house has an apartment attached. When all of my siblings escaped and made lives for themselves, I was left behind to help keep up the house. It’s a big place and requires much maintenance.

My mother became physically disabled in 2016 and couldn’t do anything for herself; my siblings stopped visiting due, they said, to their busy lives. When my mother made me promise not to let my siblings put her in a nursing home, I realized I was going to have to accept my role as primary care giver.

She is my mom and I was OK with that. There have been arguments with my sisters and brother, who have accused me of taking advantage of my mother in order to live rent-free. That was my thank you from them. The past three years were emotionally and physically exhausting.

My mother was heavy — around 300 pounds — she was a night owl. Between lifting her and staying up nights, I was laid off from my job a year and a half ago.

My mother was heavy — around 300 pounds — she was a night owl. Between lifting her and staying up nights, I was laid off from my job a year and a half ago. My mother passed a little over a month ago. My brother came to the house the next day with my sisters and informed me that I had to move out.

The “for sale” sign was up five days after my mother died. I couldn’t even mourn my mother in peace. Each day, they would call me and harass me about the house. I put my money into this house and so much work throughout the years. Shouldn’t I be given time to move out? I have belongings and a son, my cat, my mother’s two cats, and my mom’s stuff.

I can’t afford to keep the house, but I’m not ready to move in 30 days’ time. They promised me at least till Aug. 17, but now they broke that promise and told me today that I have to be out in 30 days. I think I have rights, am I right?

Good Son

Dear Son,

You did the right thing by taking care of your mother. Not everyone would do what you did, but you fulfilled her wishes by managing to take care of her in the family home. That’s no easy feat and one that your siblings were either unwilling or unable to help you with. That’s their lot. You should be proud of how you navigated this time in your mother’s life. Your siblings’ actions are resentments — they have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

The legal situation is complex and you should certainly consult a lawyer to find out your rights in your state, but you may be in a more precarious situation if you did not pay rent and if your mother did not make a will outlining how she would like her house to be divided upon her death. An elderly parent, for example, might decide to give an adult child care giver rights to live there for the rest of his/her life.

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Here are steps others should consider: Put the house in a qualified personal residence trust. In this case, a parent would be able to stay in his/her home, but a trust removes it from his/her taxable estate. Tenancy in common with no survivorship rights could outline how much time a care giver or adult child has until he/she leaves. A “life estate” gives the care giver the right to live there for the rest of his/her life (there may be some tax implications in that scenario, however).

It’s also important to not view yourself as the victim. You felt pressured by your mother and, it seems, abandoned by your siblings, but you still had a choice. We all do. There are many ways to interpret this situation. Your siblings left home, sought out an independent life (you say “escaped”). Your mother asked you to take care of her so she would never be put in a home (you say “made”). There is always room for negotiation and family meetings, and personal accountability.

That, and this takeaway for readers won’t help you now. You’re in a tough spot. But anyone in your situation who is reading this should plan ahead to avoid being put in such an uncertain position. Unfortunately, as this column has indicated over the years, siblings sometimes turn on each other when a parent dies and old family resentments come rising to the surface. Put bluntly, for some people it’s payback time for perceived wrongdoings.

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These are some of the worst-case scenarios faced by adult children who are living at home and who are not paying rent. In Florida and New York, for example, ejectment is essentially an eviction for non-tenants, “such as temporary guests or adult children who have never been asked to pay rent,” according to The Reeves Law Group. State and city trespassing and eviction laws have also been used to oust unwanted guests. You can read more here.

Finally, you do have rights. You, Good Son, are in a stronger position than most adult children in these kinds of situations because you are one of the legal heirs to your mother’s estate and you were your mother’s primary care giver. Assuming there was no will, your mother’s estate will still have to go through probate and be divided equally between her children. A judge would likely take into account all of these factors. You could also apply to be administrator of your mother’s estate.

Good luck. I hope you find the life you have always wanted and, I’m sure, the life your mother would have wanted you to have too.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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