My question involves real estate located in the State of: North Carolina
On 01/10/1995 my wife (12 yrs/o at the time) was left as remaindermen to her grandfather's estate. Her grandmother was left a life estate, and as soon as she dies her uncle can start his life estate of the property and upon his death the property turns to my wife in fee simple. Less than an hour after her grandfather's funeral, the grandmother, uncle, and his wife (a lawyer) call a "family meeting" and stated that her grandfather made a mistake and my wife would be an old woman by the time she got the property, and they needed to add his wife's name to the deed. To do this, they stated that they would need all the children to sign a statement saying that her grandfather was mentally incompetent at the time of writing the deed and my wife's mother would need to sign away her daughter's rights because she was a minor. All the children agreed except for my wife's mother. I first found out about this situation after living with my wife for 3 years. My wife was visibly upset after getting off the phone with her mother one night. After some questioning I found out that her mother told her that an in-law, being allowed to stay on the farm, set fire to the weeds around the pond and then left it unattended. The fire left the pond area and sweep across the 7ft weeds of the neglected fields and burnt down a large barn, narrowly missing a house valued at $250,000. The grandmother and in-law watched and only called the fire department when the fire entered the State Park that is adjacent to the property. The grandmother was paid $10,000 for the barn. My wife was informed of this in July and the fire occurred in February. I told my wife that it looked like her grandmother was having trouble maintaining the property and seeing that there are 2 large houses on the property if she got us a room to stay in we would transfer from our current university to the one near the property and I would work around the farm to help them repair the property. When we got there, it was worse than we thought. The weeds were over 7ft again, the burnt remains of the barn had not been touched, one of the houses had termites and the roof poured buckets inside each time it rained, an invasive tree called mimosa had been planted on the property and now acre size groups of the trees dotted the farm, an algae called duck weed covered the pond to the point that it kill all the fish stock, and another in-law had set another fire next to a house and left, but this time the wind blew it away from the house and right into his car, it was a total loss. To make a very long and depressing story shorter my wife and I fixed almost everything ourselves including installing a new roof between classes. We were told by everyone living on the farm that they didn't own any of it and would not work on any of it. The grandmother told us that she could not make anyone there do anything and that she was not responsible for anything that happened on the property, but in the first two months of living there I was approached by every person living on the farm including the grandmother and asked to get my wife to sign away all or at least part of her rights. I just smiled and kept working. They began to try and make staying there unpleasant for us. Waking us up by blasting gospel music early of a morning,the uncle and his brother who had not visited their mother in 4 years suddenly decided to come on alternating weekends every weekend and to bring their kids. Her uncle stated that she would only inherit the property when she was an old woman unless "something" happened to us and then he got it. I took this as a personal treat and have since made "arrangements" in case of our untimely death! Her aunt spent every waking hour over there using one of our computers or watching T.V. in the living room and when asked to leave so we could have some privacy we were told that this was her mothers house and that she would stay there as long as she wanted. She also stated to us that she believed that we had not had kids yet because we were made sterile by some std. Strangely enough, she's never had children. I finally wound up violently assaulting her aunt's husband over a incident with my dog and a steel trap. That finally got us peace but it cost $2,250 in medical and I got a Prayer for Judgment (PJC) for the assault, although it was worth it to humiliate the big talker (more like big lier) in front of the whole small town. By this time we had been accepted to a better University and I had made arrangements to finish out the semester staying on some property to which I am remainderman of. My wife and I finished the semester and made the Honor's List. Upon retrieving the last of our things from the property we were basically told by her grandmother not to come back, and for my wife to give up her keys to the houses. Those keys were given to my wife by her grandfather before he passed. So, we informed her that she was responsible for the property and if it was allowed to get back in the horrible condition that we found it or if any more mysterious fires were set we would take her to court and as far as the keys go she would have to take us to court. We have now moved into our nice home, in our nice city, 4 miles from one of the nicest university in the state and because of our nice GPA our new school had doubled our grants.
So here are some of our questions.
What is my wife's rights?
Does she have a right to go on the property to visit her mother?
Does she have a right to inspect the property for damage or waste?
Does she have the right to posses keys to the houses?
If waste is found what is her burden of proof?
If the life tenant is found guilty of waste what action might the court take?
If you were in this situation how would you handle it?
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any advice you can give!!