DULUTH, Minn. (AP) _ While the body of 80-year-old Blanche Hansen lay in the living room of her home for at least a year, her feuding children were unaware she had died because each thought the other was taking care of her.

It wasn't until they finally broke the ice and asked each other how their mother was that they realized something was wrong and went to her home Tuesday.

''It sounds dumb, but that's what happened,'' said Ken Evenson, son-in-law of Mrs. Hansen, who suffered emotional problems and lived reclusively in her dilapidated bungalow.

Neighbors said they thought Mrs. Hansen, who cursed ''like a lumberjack'' and often shooed visiters away with a broom, had moved.

''Everybody thought she had gone away to live with her daughter or in a nursing home,'' said Arthur La Plante, the woman's neighbor for about 30 years. ''There hasn't been any activity over there for a couple years, at least.''

Evenson said the lack of contact between Mrs. Hansen and her children, Carol Evenson and Robert Hansen, both of whom live in the area, caused a mixup as to who was taking care of her.

The silence was broken after brother and sister got together Monday night to settle the estate of their mother's brother, 82-year-old Harold Hanson, who died Jan. 29 at his Duluth home.

Evenson said that when the children ended their feud, ''He (Robert Hansen) asked, 'So, where are you keeping Mom?' And we said, 'We thought you were taking care of her.'''

Evenson said his wife and her brother had avoided one another since an argument years ago involving the family's lake cabin.

He also said Mrs. Hansen, a widow, had been a recluse for many years and often wouldn't let her children in when they did visit. Mrs. Hansen also had refused to reinstall the telephone she had removed 10 years ago after the death of her husband, Hans, her son-in-law said.

Hans Hansen retired from his job as a bus mechanic at least 20 years ago and continued to care for his wife, Evenson said. After her husband's death Mrs. Hansen became suspicious of everyone, including her children, and behaved oddly, he said.

His wife and her mother quit seeing each other three years ago at the Mrs. Hansen's request, but his wife continued paying her mother's property tax and utility bills, Evenson said.

''Sometimes when you went there she wouldn't let you in,'' he said. ''Half the time the refrigerator was unplugged.'' Her children arranged to have utility meters installed outside the house because Mrs. Hansen refused to allow meter readers inside.

''If you even hinted you wanted her to go to a hospital, she wouldn't let you in,'' Evenson said.

An autopsy Wednesday revealed that Mrs. Hansen had been dead at least a year and found no obvious signs of foul play, according to police Inspector Fred Sowl.

Mrs. Hansen's neighbors said they hadn't seen her since the summer of 1983. After that, neighbors complained to one another as the grass in her yard grew long, and her corner house looked neglected.

La Plante said many neighbors had avoided Mrs. Hansen.

''She cussed at everybody and would drive you off with a broom,'' he said. ''Someone would go to the door and she'd come out swearing like a lumberjack.''