How can I find out if my sister was fair in distributing my parent's assets? 11 Answers as of December 09, 2011

After my parents passed away this year, the youngest of three sisters, the executor of their will, decided that her and my oldest sister would each get one of my parents' two paid for homes. I and another sister got 10k each which is 25% of what was supposedly left in the bank account. She claims my parents had no will but I have seen and read their will stating that their assets would be divided equally. Also since I am almost sure my father got a 250k life insurance policy less than 6 months ago, I wonder how my mom could have used all that money in that short of time. How can I find out what my parents assets were? How can I get a copy of their will? Can I, or should I, sue my sister for unfair distribution of their assets?

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Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law
Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law | Martin Barnes
I am sorry for the recent loss of your mother. Your questions are good ones and it is clear you have thought about this carefully. If you feel there was a will that was not presented to the court for probate, or that the executor has not been attending to their duties faithfully, or that your beneficial interest in the estate of your mother (or father) has been improperly administered I advise you to meet with an attorney who can contest the proceding.
Answer Applies to: Indiana
Replied: 12/9/2011
Law Offices of Lorenzo L. Angelino | Lorenzo L. Angelino
Your sister could not have been an "executor" if there was no will. She had to have made an application to the local Surrogate's Court to become an administrator of the estate, and you should have received all the documentation with respect to this. If there was a will, and your sister was named executor, more appropriately executrix, the probate of the will should have gone through the Surrogate's Court as well, and you should have gotten a copy of the Will. An executor could not decide on their own how to distribute an estate. I would go to the local Surrogate's Court, of the County your parents resided in to find out if the estate is on file.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 12/1/2011
Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
Bullivant Houser Bailey PC | Darin Christensen
If there was no will, the assets would be equally divided among the children. The executor should have filed for probate; those records are public records. Also, the executor has to send you a copy on request. You should request a copy of the will and any probate documentation. Absent a clearly valid will that distributes assets non pro rata, you should let your sister know she is not complying with her legal obligations and that she needs to distribute everything equally. If she won't then you should hire a lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 11/30/2011
THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC
THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
A Last Will & Testament MUST be probated. For your sister to have the authority to make distributions then she had to be appointed by the court. If she filed the Will she must notify each heir and they must sign acknowledging the receipt of a copy of the Will. Did any of this occur? You can check with the probate clerk of court in the county of the decedent's residence to find the Will that was probated. If no will was probated then your sister has NO authority to distribute the assets of the estate. If she has distributed real estate it too must be recorded and a search of the real estate records in the county of the property would list the transfer.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 11/30/2011
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
Consider each estate separately. If neither had a will, and all the kids are kids of both parents (no second marriage) then when one spouse dies, the other spouse takes all. When second spouse dies, kids take equally. So, will or no will, the outcome is the same. Has probate closed? Is there a final account? Have someone review the final account. If it is already closed, have someone review the probate documents and be prepared to sue. Do not let a whole year go by or you will likely be SOL.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 11/30/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    If she claims there was no will, then the intestacy laws of the state where your parents lived will control. In most states, if the children are the heirs, they share everything equally anyway, so with or without a will, it is likely any uneven distribution was wrong. And if the was no will, there is nothing that made your sister the executor other than her claim to be one. The only way to be the "executor" is to either be named in the will and be appointed by the probate court, or if there is no will, by opening a probate and being appointed by the court if no one else wants to be the executor or is qualified. You don't state whether a probate was opened or not, but in most states, without probate, it is not possible to legally transfer the deed to the property from your parents to your sister, and if they did so on their own, they can end up with title issues when they try to sell or their heirs try to sell the property.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/30/2011
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    In order for your sister tolegally distribute assets of an estate, she needs to be appointed as Personal Representative of the estate. This appointment takes place through the court system of the county in which the decedent resided at the time of his/her death. In order to request appointment as Personal Representative, the petitioner, usually the person seeking appointment, must file a Petition with the court. You, as a child of the decedent, are entitled to receive a copy of that petition and all subsequent filings. The closing documents should spell out the values of the estate's assets, the estate obligations paid, the expenses of estate administration and the assets remaining for distribution. The above statements apply to all probate assets. You should be aware that life insurance is not a probate asset unless the estate is the beneficiary. In addition, property held jointly, with right of survivorship, is not a probate asset. At the time of death, property held in this manner becomes the property of the joint owner. You can check with the office of the County Recorder to determine who is/was title owner of the real estate at the time of death. You can also check with the Court Administrator to determine whether a probate action was ever filed. It all comes down to who technically owned the assets at the time of your mother's death.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 11/30/2011
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    Your first step is to check the probate records where they died. It is possible that the assets were in a trust or placed in joint tenancies, or have death beneficiaries on the accounts/properties. If so, then they are not subject to the terms of the Will.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 11/30/2011
    Burnham & Associates
    Burnham & Associates | Stephanie K. Burnham
    You need to speak with an attorney who can go through all of the facts with you, discuss whether or not there was a probate, and based on your specific facts, explain what "happened" with the distribution. There are very different methods of distribution, and some assets are not subject to a Last Will and Testament. It is possible that an unequal distribution of assets is correct under some circumstances, especially if your parents did not discuss all of their assets with their attorney when they drafted their Will.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 11/30/2011
    Martinson & Beason, PC
    Martinson & Beason, PC | Douglas C Martinson II
    An estate should have been filed for her to distribute the estate unless your parents added the Executor on the house and the accounts. She would not be able to make a valid transfer of the house without an estate open if the house was solely in your parents' names. You could search the Probate records for a deed to the houses and also see if an estate has been filed. You would have to have been given notice of the estate since you are a child. You could seek an attorney in your county to assist with that.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 11/30/2011
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