Q: My 88 year old aunt died recently. She was best friends all her life with her 91 year old sister. She told her sister numerous times that if anything happened to her that she wanted her to have her house along with her surviving brother.

After her death, my aunt’s estate was settled and the house was sold. Upon researching the deed for the sale it was discovered that the brother who preceded my aunt in death was also on the deed.

The house proceeds were divided into thirds and the third portion wound up in the hands of my aunt’s sister-in-law (her late brother’s wife). My aunt never intended her to get any of the proceeds.

Would there have been anyway to reverse the deed and have the will override it?

A: I suspect that the answer is “No.” Whoever is named on the deed is an owner of the house. A will would only dictate what is to be done with the property that is owned by an individual, in this case, your aunt. The fact that years earlier, someone put your uncle on the deed to the house meant that your aunt’s will would only serve to distribute her share of the property after her death.

While I don’t think there is much you can do now, your situation is a good example for those who don’t believe it’s necessary to make sure their estate is organized and tidy. If you don’t plan out your estate, little things can disrupt the best of intentions. This is particularly important if you have minor children or older relatives who are dependent upon you for support.

For more details, please consult with an estate attorney.

July 2, 2008.