Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Marcelle Harrison’s family has lived in a three-story home near Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts for close to 40 years, during which time four generations laid their heads. Now she may have to relocated because her stepfather died intestate in 2011 after the passing of her mother two years prior, meaning that legally her stepfather's blood relatives back in his native country of Barbados have a stronger claim to her childhood home.
Harrison, 64, received the news in a letter the day before Thanksgiving. The home was purchased by her parents in 1980 for $23,000 but was now worth more than $1 million. Her stepfather, Noel Aimes, never learned how to properly read or write but had every intention to leave the home to the family that lived in the house, according to Harrison. “Since you were not an heir-at-law, your appointment is in jeopardy of being set aside,” wrote Gayle Stone-Turesky, a Boston lawyer who was appointed by the state as a public administrator, who is brought in to handle estates where there is no will and no blood heir living in the state.
An attorney for the niece and nephew in Barbados said that they intend to sell the property once the case is settled. They are the children of Noel's sister, the only family member he appeared to be close to once he had moved to Boston. According to Harrison, the aunt passed away in 2001 and the niece visited Noel once, presumably for money while passing through the Commonwealth.
Harrison's neighbors are outraged by her predicament and have started a GoFundMe page to assist in legal fees and to possibly attain a bargaining chip. She appears to have a strong case to be reimbursed at least for the taxes she paid on the property, any improvements she made to the house, and even her care of her stepfather in his final days. She may be able to work out a deal with the niece and nephew so that her and her family remain in the cherished family home.
See Maria Cramer, A Patriarch Leaves No Will and the Home he Meant for his Cambridge Family May be Lost, Boston Globe, February 7, 2019.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.