(WSVN) - When his mother died, she left a will detailing how she wanted her property to be taken care of, but now, a relative is in court asking for their fair share of the property. That has left a son fighting the other side and a judge to get what he says his mother would have wanted. Who will win? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
For James Brown’s family, this Miami house contains their history, where three generations have called it home.
James Brown: “My grandma, my dad. My mother took over, right? And then she died and left the place to me.”
When James’ mother passed away, in her will, she left the house to James and his half-brother Eric.
James Brown: “I love my brother, and I got one brother, so I always looked out for him.”
In that will, his mother also left a stipulation, James said, because she knew she could depend on him.
James Brown: “I have full power and the whole estate, according to her will, according to her writing on this will.”
As the years passed, James’ brother became legally blind. James said he cared for him and their property.
James Brown: “I paid the bills. I painted the house. I painted, I worked.”
Patrick Fraser: “So who paid the taxes on the house?”
James Brown: “Me.”
In 2020, Erik passed away. James took full control of the house since, he said, his brother didn’t have any heirs.
Then, a couple of months later, a case was filed in court by Victor Coley.
James Brown: “Saying that he is my brother’s grandson and that he owns half the house.”
Patrick Fraser: “What do you say to that?”
James Brown: “I say, ‘No.'”
James argues that Victor, who says he is the grandson, is not a blood relative, and legally, has no right to half of the house.
James Brown: “‘You never pick up a leaf off the yard. You ain’t never come around and do nothing, and then you do nothing for my brother.'”
In court, James did not have a lawyer. He is defending himself in handwritten court filings, and he says he has managed to irritate the judge a time or two.
James Brown: “She don’t like me because I told her she was wrong, and she needed to step aside. Let another judge step in and do something, you know? And she didn’t like that, I guess.”
After 61 filings, back and forth, a judge ruled that Victor Coley is the legal grandson and the personal representative of his grandfather’s estate, meaning he owns half the family house.
James says he knows what that means.
James Brown: “He’s gonna sell it ’cause he ain’t got no money.”
James says that’s not what his mother wanted for the house, that she wanted him to control the property.
James Brown: “Me, James Harold Brown.”
Patrick Fraser: “That’s who she wanted?”
James Brown: “That’s right. That’s what she wanted.”
Well, Howard, his mother’s will says he controls the estate, a judge said, “Nope, only half.” Who wins? The will or the court?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The court interpreted the will, and the will split the house, and while the will left James as the personal representative of his mother’s estate, if someone can prove they are related to his late brother, they get half of the house.”
Here is the birth certificate showing Eric Russell was the father of Victor Coley’s late mother, making him, Eric Russell, grandson.
James is not swayed.
James Brown: “No, that’s not his daughter by blood.”
Patrick Fraser: “So, how did his name get on the birth certificate?”
James Brown: “I don’t know.”
The grandson’s attorney, Stephen Loffredo, said his client is not interested in selling the house but does want all his grandfather’s financial records that are in the house, since Victor now represents his estate.
A judge agreed and ordered James to turn it all over.
James Brown: “Judge is wrong. Yeah, she’s wrong.”
And so, James says he will not give up.
James Brown: “I gotta appeal it to a higher court. I don’t know what circuit, but I got to appeal it. I got to. I am not going to take that laying down.”
If James loses his appeal, could the grandson force the sale of the house and split the proceeds with James? A judge could order a sale, yes, but if history is any indication, James will be in court to fight that, because he does not want to move out of the house his mother gave him.
Inherited a problem? Lost the will to fight? House it with us, and see if we can disperse an heirloom of a solution.
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