Can I legally prohibit my brother-in-law from entering my mother's condo to retrieve clothes for his child and anything else?
Question Details: My sister passed away recently. She was squatting in my mother's condo for the last 18 months after my mother passed. Her estranged husband has lived with a woman for some time. They have a special needs child too. Can I legally withhold my brother in-law from entering my mothers condo to retrieve clothes for his child and anything else (i.e. LCD TV, various electronics with little value)? Some bills (e.g. phone and cable) are currently in my name and I'd like him to pay these prior to entering the condo. Can I ask him for money and say, "Pay me and you can enter" or does he have a right?
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First, are you the executor (if there is will) or personal representative of your mother's estate? Only the executor or PR has the legal authority to take action regarding the estate's property, including the condo.
Second, even if you are the executor or PR, is your sister still squatting there? If she is, until you remove her (see below), she can let anyone she wants enter the home, so she could let your brother-in-law come into the condo, even live/stay there. Or if she does not want him there, she can refuse him entry (and call the police on him for trespassing if he tries to come in anyway). Even though you say she is squatting, if she has been there 18 months, she is the legal occupant and can control access until she is properly removed.
If she is not currently there--i.e. she moved out--then he has no right to enter, since there is no occupant there to give him permission: you could call the police on him if he does or tries to enter. And you could call the police on your sister as a trespasser if she tries to go back in after having moved out and relinquished even tenuous rights to occupancy: once a "guest" (see below) leaves voluntarily, they have no right to return.
If she is still there and you want her gone, you can remove her: if she is not a rent paying tenant but has been living there for months, she is legally a "guest" and a guest can be asked to live at any time. (Typically, you give her a month's written notice to leave--you have to provide a "reasonable" time to move out.) If she does not leave, you can bring a type of legal action traditionally called an action "for ejectment" (your state may have a different name for it) to remove her, becasue guests have no right to remain once there permission has been revoked by someone (e.g. executor or PR) with legal authority over the property. You can think of ejectment as "eviction for non-tenants." A landlord-tenant attorney can help you with this.