Q: I have personally seen my grandmother’s will. She had copies in her house. She had a stroke and my aunt moved her out of state to a nursing home in Tampa Florida. She has since passed away, two days after my mother (so no help getting info from her). I believe my Aunt maybe trying to hide the fact my grandmother had a will. I know her grandchildren were left a fair amount of money. My aunt is also POA. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You will need to hire a lawyer in FLA to investigate and possibly file a court action. Before you do that, you can call and check what the procedure in that county is to see if a will has been filed. They may have a website, or you may be able to get an answer on the telephone. If a will has not been filed and you truly believe there is one, the attorney can begin to request it in writing from your aunt and if unsuccessful, he can petition the court to order her to product it. Having an attorney involved will cost you money.
Q: My aunt died without a will and left a property behind in Pennsylvania. She has only one living daughter in Florida. She hired a probate attorney who set up a trust to deal with the process because she is too busy to deal with it herself. There are many things in the house that are mine that my aunt had let me keep there for storage. I try to enter the home to retrieve them, but the trustee tells me I am not allowed on the premise. Is there a way I can be allowed inside? I am afraid that my valuable belongings will be inventoried along with my aunt’s things. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: A Trustee or Executor, has legal authority over real and personal property of a deceased person. They have a duty to preserve it and keep it in tact until it can be inventoried and accounted for and properly disbursed pursuant to the trust agreement or will. If you cannot work this out with the Trustee or Executor, you will have to hire a lawyer to file a petition in the Orphan’s Court in the county which has jurisdiction. This is likely to be where your aunt resided and died. If this property is indisputably yours, you should have no problem. If there is a question and you have no clear proof such as receipts or records, it may be difficult.
Q: Four years after mom’s passing I got a copy of the will. The two heirlooms left for me in the will, my sister, the executor, claims were stolen by a third sister. The executor will not communicate with me, a named beneficiary. I assume this alleged theft must have been discovered after mom’s passing, otherwise would not the attorney have advised the executor to amend the will to reflect the unknown whereabouts of these things in order to protect the executor from financial liability? And would the lawyer not advise the executor of the will to file a police report of the alleged theft? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Your questions are valid but there is much missing information here. Like, why did you just notice this after four years? Was an estate opened when your mother died? Is that estate still open? Things will generally go less smoothly if this estate was opened and closed and you had not raised this question before. I would at least try to get an answer from the estate attorney. He or she should be willing to speak with you and answer your questions. If you have no luck, you have a couple options. If the estate is still open, you could wait until the estate attorney moves to close the estate. He or she can close by family agreement which means you would be required to sign off on it. Don’t sign until you get an explanation. If you don’t sign, the estate can only be closed formally, by First and Final Account. The attorney would then attempt to close the estate formally by presenting a First and Final Account to Orphan’s Court. It is called an “Audit”. You will be notified of the date, time and location of the Audit and be supplied a copy of the First and Final Account with the Notice. You can choose to appear at the Audit and convey your objections and or questions to the judge. Your other option is to hire an attorney now to attempt to get an answer for you now, and if necessary file a petition in Orphans Court if the estate Inventory does not show the heirlooms. If the estate closed, you may have a tough time getting back in to court to open this issue.