Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ask the Experts / Probate

Subject Mishandling of estate by executirx

QUESTION: My mothers will said that her estate, after certain bequeathments, was to be equally divided between us eight siblings and one charity. My sister was the executrix of the will. We knew ma wanted her to have mas trailerhouse but sis moved into moms house even before the will was probated, moreover,.. she immediately began to throw moms things out without even telling any of us siblings. One of my sisters was appalled when she walked into the corner thrift shop as she usually does, and found a rack of my mothers clothing hanging there for sale! I would have never have known myself that she was "cleaning house" unless my husband didnt happen to drive by one day to see how things were going. He shocked me that afternoon when he came walking in with an armful of some of my mothers favorite things that sis told him "he could take" cause she was giving it all away to charity. My mother wasent dead two or three days at this time and sis never let us know that she was getting rid of mothers stuff, clothes, nick nacks, furniture, etc. Nevermind any sort of accounting or even division of property. She never said a word to anyone about either.She kept all moms personal property that was worth anything (3 color tvs and 2 brand new top of the line beds, a grandfather clock, etc. Moreover, when it came time to distribute the funds, because of an old issue she has with me, she decided to give a portion of my share to someone not even mentioned in the will! HERE IS THE RUB: When I complained about it she told me that I was lucky to get any money because mom had put her name on all of her accounts and that meant that the money in those accounts was hers and NOT a part of the estate.
Well sir I found this to be true. HOWEVER, she also freely admits that the reason my mother put her on all of her accounts was because mother knew that sis would "do the right thing" with the money and divy it up according to her will. Therefore, eventhough legally she didnt have to give any body any money, if she DID NOT, she would be going against my mothers wishes according to her will.
Whats more,...(I am sorry to be so long winded, but)
by "hiding" estate assets that way, the she was able to file (skip probate) by declaring that my mothers estate was worth under $20,000 (which, in fact, it was worth more like $100,000 when all is said and done).
It has been almost two months since she filed the paperwork for a "small estate," and I am wondering if there is anything I can do to sue her to get that portion of my inheritance back from her that she gave to someone else.
Any information you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER: No, there is nothing you can do except to wait for the probate process to play out to see if you will be receiving anything at all. The money your sister gave away was HERS to give away to whomever she saw fit--why can't you see she just said she was giving away your share just to AGGRAVATE you? You have no legal grounds or basis for suing her for anything. This happens all of the time--greed causes family members to argue about anything and everything.

---Volunteer Expert: Keith Northington

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your reply. I understand that, despite her knowing and saying (admitting) it was moms wish to equally dispurse the funds, in reality, she can do anything with the funds she wants, as her name in on all the accounts (jointly, with my deceased moms name) However, what about all the personal property of my mothers that she dumped and those things of value she decided to keep for herself? Wasent that part of my mothers estate that was to be equally divided among the siblings? Dosent an executrix have a fudiciary duty to us all for things like an inventory, accounting, open and honest communication? Can I sue her for breach of fudiciary duty for that?
Also, by the way, there was no probate. All the papers were filed as a small estate (under $20,000) so they (the court clerk) tells me there was no need for probate?
By they way, sis DID distribute moms funds, equally, except mine. I got a check for half of what it was supposed to be, and she did say in the letter that came with the check, that she was giving half of my share to (someone else) a caregiver. Is that not a breach of something>?
Thanks for your time.


Answer You would need to take your information to a probate attorney to find out what your next steps should be. It looks like you do have enough information to file a lawsuit against her.

--Volunteer Expert: Keith Northington


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