While there are an innumerable number of ways to die, when someone dies, it is either with a will (“testate”) or without a will (“intestate”). In the first instance, the dearly departed has executed a writing which identifies someone whom they want to manage their affairs upon death and what they want to happen with their property. In the latter, they have left that up to the laws of the state they are in.
From your perspective as the mobilehome community owner, the obligation to establish the death of the resident is that of the person(s) seeking to take some action regarding the mobilehome or its contents. This person(s) should be able to present you with a certified copy of a death certificate which will verify the identity and death of the resident. Depending on the county, this certificate will contain an official stamp, typically in purple ink, reflecting that it is an official record of that county.
To determine if a mobilehome is owned in joint tenancy, you can look at the Housing and Community Development (HCD) issued title of the mobilehome and it should indicate that the owners are “joint tenants.” If title is held in joint tenancy, then the verification of the resident’s death (and in some situations an accompanying “Affidavit of Death of Joint Tenant”), as well as confirming the identity of the joint tenant should be enough to establish that the individual has authority to take control over the mobilehome.
However, in the case of a supposed heir or personal representative, your inquiry does not stop upon mere verification of death. Once you have verified or established that the resident is dead, the question for you as the owner, regardless of whether the person has died with or without a will, is does that individual have authority to act or not. This would generally require an official court document, typically known as “Letters of Administration”, depending on the particular county. A possible exception to this, is something frequently referred to as a “Small Estates Affidavit”. This document, which is executed under oath, can be used in certain situations (which are specified in the probate code) and can allow for the release of personal property of the deceased pursuant to the statements in that declaration. There are specific requirements with regard to such affidavits, so it is recommended that you consult with legal counsel if you are presented with such a document.
Furthermore, the HCD allows an heir, after 40-days from the death of the resident, to fill out and file a form called “Certificate for Transfer Without Probate”. With this form, the heir signs an affidavit under oath, and if all requirements are met, the HCD will transfer title of the mobilehome into the individual’s name. Documentation reflecting that the HCD has transferred (or is transferring) title of the mobilehome to the heir/personal representation should also be suffi cient to prove authority to act.
In the absence of documents showing title has been transferred to the heir, joint tenant or personal representative, only the legally appointed representative of the estate with specific court ordered powers has the authority to act on behalf of the deceased. This includes the authority to sell the mobilehome or to enter the home and remove its contents.
Depending on the location of your community or where the resident died, the process whereby someone becomes appointed as the representative of the decedent’s estate can take several months. During that time, you as the community owner or manager, need to proceed cautiously:
1. DO NOT be persuaded into allowing family members access to the mobilehome if you have a key
2. DO NOT enter the mobilehome at their request to obtain clothing or documents
3. DO NOT sign contracts with heirs who have not presented proper documentation that they in fact have the legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased resident.
Continue reading …
What Should You (as the Mobilehome Community Owner) Request From an Heir to Protect Yourself?