Can my aunt forcibly take the family photos that my grandmother gave me over 30 years ago? 24 Answers as of January 16, 2014

Over 30 years ago my grandmother gave me some family photos that she wanted me to have. My grandmother has been deceased now for over 20 years. Recently, my aunt made claims that my grandmother told her she only loaned the photos to me to be returned later. I now received a certified letter from my aunt demanding that I return the photos to her as she is the sole heir of my grandmother's estate. My aunt states that if I do not return the photos within two weeks she will take legal action. I do not know if my grandmother had a will, if she did, I seriously doubt these photos were specifically mentioned. Does my aunt have any legal right to force me to give up the photos to her?

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Richard J. Keyes Attorney at Law | Richard J. Keyes
Your aunt is trying to pull a fast one on you. Any claim made by your aunt would have to happen when your grandmother's will was probated 20 years ago while the probate process was going on. There definitely is a statute of limitations problem even if your aunt was the sole beneficiary. Call her bluff and then tell her to stop harassing you.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 1/16/2014
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
If your grandmother physically handed the photos to you, and said "I want you to have these" or something like that, then that was a completed gift at that time. From that moment forward, when you took the photos and said "thanks," the photos were yours, and no longer belonged to your grandmother. Her will has nothing to do with it. All you have is an evidence problem "she said, she said." It would be best if someone else to testify to the gift, but after a 20-year delay I would be amazed if your aunt could prevail on her claim. Contact the Oregon State Bar about a low-cost consultation with a lawyer in your area who could review this with you.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/14/2014
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
You owned the photos when your grandmother gave them to you ten years before her death. Your aunt has no claim. An easy solution to this would be to have your aunt pay to make copies of the photos that she can keep.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 1/14/2014
Office of Michael Hyde, Esq | Michael C. Hyde
A gift prior to death is not part of a decedent's estate, especially 20 years after the passing. Your aunt's claim to the photos is void for several reasons. First, laches she slept on her right to demand possession of the photos 20 years ago. Second, gift an heir cannot revoke a gift made prior to a decedent's passing unless s/he can prove fraud or duress in the process. I would also suggest that you request a copy of your grandmother's will. Obviously your grandmother had more than one potential heir. Did anyone else receive something from her estate? Was your mother/father alive when she passed? Your aunt may be the only living heir by was probably not her sole heir at the time of her passing. Check that out.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 1/14/2014
Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd.
Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd. | Randall C. Romei
If you have had possession of the photos for 30 years and your grandmother made no effort to seek their return while alive it is highly unlikely that your aunt has any superior evidence to indicate that your grandmother did not intend to have you keep the photos.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 1/14/2014
    The Curran Law Firm
    The Curran Law Firm | Maura Curran
    If indeed your grandmother handed these photos to you and said they were yours, then it was a gift and are yours. Once property leaves ones estate, it is no longer part of an estate and therefore even though your aunt is the sole beneficiary of the estate, that particular piece of property is not part of the grandmother's estate. However, considering how easy it is to copy a photo, you may offer to have copies made for the aunt. It would appear the aunt is having some issues especially considering your grandmother passed many, many years ago. It may be best to keep the peace and just give her copies.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Law Offices of Ezra N. Goldman
    Law Offices of Ezra N. Goldman | Ezra Goldman
    Why not make copies? You don't have to give her photos until a court orders you to do it but it in these days of scanning and digital color copies, it seems silly to make a big point out of this.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Law Offices of Charles R. Perry
    Law Offices of Charles R. Perry | Charles R. Perry
    If your grandmother gave you those photos before she passed away, then they are yours to keep. Her will, or the laws regarding her estate if she did not have a will, are not relevant. If you took the photos from her house after she passed away, however, then they would have belonged to the estate. I suspect, however, that the statute of limitations may have passed as to your aunt's right to pursue the photos. In any event, you may wish to keep peace within the family. Photos can be easily duplicated. There may be a way to have the photos copied, give a copy to your aunt, and make everyone happy.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Robert E. Giffin | Robert E. Giffin CPA
    Keep the photos as a gift from your mother. Unless your aunt have something in writing signed by your mother, she has no chance .
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    Hard to say. She can certainly take you to court and the judge can decide.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Law Offices of Jeffery L. Fanto
    Law Offices of Jeffery L. Fanto | Jeffery L. Fanto
    A gift is a gift is a gift. In addition, your grandmother's estate has long missed its chance to make any claim against you.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    No she (aunt) does not have a claim for the photos, and if she did, she failed to make the claim within statutory time to bring a lawsuit. Stand your ground and don't cave into her demand; and if she continues to make a demand or brings a complaint against you, obtain the services of an attorney to file a cross complaint against her for damages for harassment, emotional distress, et al.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    James Law Group
    James Law Group | Christine James
    It is HIGHLY unlikely that your aunt has any claim to the photo's, especially since you grandmother has been gone for 20 years. That said, if you can, maybe you can offer to make copies, at her expense, of the photos and share them with her. I would not give up the album however unless you feel you should because your aunt will have a hard time getting them back after they have been in your possession for 20 years.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    She has the burden of proof.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    There may be other options. It is generally possible to scan photos and it may be possible to get those to your aunt. While she may have been legally entitled to the estate, there is a statute of limitations for estate matters and that has long passed. I do not think she has a case at all. Since she is your aunt, I would try to work this out, but if that is not possible, I would tell her to take a hike.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
    It will be your word against hers, in which case she has not proven her case [she has the duty to show by a preponderance of the evidence that she is right]. The fact that she has waited 20 years would probably bar her from any claim and certainly would make a judge think that she probably knew she had no claim and gave it up if she did. I would write her back, certified letter, telling her your position and the argument above, plus if grandmother had wanted the photos back why did she wait for ten years? Offer to make copies of the photos if she will pay for the copies [you need to set it up that she pays you first before you make the copies].
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    David Kass | David Kass
    I don,t think ny,septl addresses this issue. Practically speaking why would your aunt bring a suit to get the pics? A suit would cost her 10k or more in legal fees.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/15/2014
    Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
    No, but why not just have copies made?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/14/2014
    Hamblin Law Office | Sally Hamblin
    Not so unbelievable. The photos were a gift. They were given to you, They were accepted by you and you took possession. The photos are yours. If you give them to her you will have lost them forever. They are yours. Based on all facts presented she has no legal right. A gift trumps any hearsay and will. Sorry for this family garbage.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    Attorney At Law | James G. Maguire
    The photos are yours, since your grandmother gave them to you. Even if there is a will leaving them to someone else, they are still yours.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    Peters Law, PLLC
    Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
    It doesn't matter what the will says. What matters is that they were a gift to you. Maybe somebody should check to see if your aunt needs help because this is rather odd coming at this late date.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    James M. Chandler | James M. Chandler
    Only if she can prove that they are part of your grandmothers estate. I doubt she can prove that if they were given to you 30 years ago.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law
    James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law | James Oberholtzer
    No, she cannot take them back without real proof they were not a gift to you. It would simplify the situation if you have a letter from your grandmother saying they are a gift to you.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/13/2014
    Adam Famulary
    Adam Famulary | Adam Famulary
    If your grandmother gave you the photos while she was still alive (assuming she was not acting under undue influence or was lacking mental capacity when she made the gift), your aunt should have no legal claim to the pictures. If your aunt does indeed initiate legal action, seek the help of a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 1/13/2014
Click to View More Answers:
12 3 4 5 Free Legal QuestionsConnect with a local attorney