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Grandma's Will
Old 11-18-2007, 08:51 PM   #1
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Grandma's Will

My grandmother died in July 2007 in Washington State. She left a will and my uncle is the executor. My mom and my uncle are the two closest living relatives. From everything I have read, probate is not required in Washington in this situation as there are no assets to be retitled. I also read the will must be filed with the county within 40 days of the death which I am pretty sure has not been done since it is very easy to search for it on the county's website. I found other wills in their database, but not hers.

My mother and uncle both live in WA but about 90 minutes apart and in separate counties. My uncle lived relatively close to grandma and managed her affairs. Grandma had some CD's and some money in the bank which were titled with my uncle. My uncle told my mom he would send her half of the funds (gave her a $ amount) per the will. When my mom asked for a copy of the will, he started getting all weird on her and acted like she was making a big deal out of things.

My mom's suspicions are now raised as to what the will actually states and what the total assets were at the time of grandma's death. Does mom have any options to demand a full accounting of the funds at the time of death and a copy of the will without making it a gigantic deal?

Now I understand the stories people tell about things getting crazy with family over money when someone dies. My uncle is a great guy and this is all very unexpected.
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Old 11-18-2007, 09:40 PM   #2
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wow. im not so sure in this situation, but i feel for you. it must be akward though, seeing as the uncle was cool up to this point

im sure there's a way to get the will, IF your mom;s in it...I wouldnt see why not. If he does not cough up the will, I suspect it might get drawn out longer....but I have no idea


I think the best answer you'll get is

"Ask your attorney"
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Old 11-18-2007, 10:18 PM   #3
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My grandmother died in July 2007 in Washington State. She left a will and my uncle is the executor. My mom and my uncle are the two closest living relatives. From everything I have read, probate is not required in Washington in this situation as there are no assets to be retitled. I also read the will must be filed with the county within 40 days of the death which I am pretty sure has not been done since it is very easy to search for it on the county's website. I found other wills in their database, but not hers.

My mother and uncle both live in WA but about 90 minutes apart and in separate counties. My uncle lived relatively close to grandma and managed her affairs. Grandma had some CD's and some money in the bank which were titled with my uncle. My uncle told my mom he would send her half of the funds (gave her a $ amount) per the will. When my mom asked for a copy of the will, he started getting all weird on her and acted like she was making a big deal out of things.

My mom's suspicions are now raised as to what the will actually states and what the total assets were at the time of grandma's death. Does mom have any options to demand a full accounting of the funds at the time of death and a copy of the will without making it a gigantic deal?

Now I understand the stories people tell about things getting crazy with family over money when someone dies. My uncle is a great guy and this is all very unexpected.
Sorry on your grandma's passing and sorry things are a little uncomfortable with family relationships and happenings.

If WA law requires filing of the will within 40 days, it is wise of you to try to find it in a low key manner. That avoids upsetting whoever, but will let you and your mom know what the will said.

A thought. Is it possible the county is simply slow getting things posted to their online database? Perhaps you could call the County Records Office and ask about it.

Or is it possible it was filed in a different county? If your uncle would be repsonsible for filing the will, perhaps he filed it in the county where he lives, not your Grandma's county of residence?

I Know WA has a "small estates" rule on probate. This provides a short, easy probate procedure for estates valued at less than some amount, and I think it basically amounts to filing a form and declaration. You mention there were "no assets to be retitled", but I do not think that is a reason for exclusion from probate---rather it is the amount of the estate that would qualify it for the "short" procedure. You might check into that.

If you cannot find anything on your Grandma's will, and it really seems it has not been filed, perhaps you can alert your uncle about the 40-day rule for filing wills so he doesn't get in trouble? Just tell him you were curious about the will, and you learned of the filing requirements, and you didn't want him to get in trouble. If he takes offense in those circumstances, well perhaps that is just his problem.

Another thought is tax liabilities your uncle might have related to him having been named as a co-owner on CD's and bank accounts. And if he "gifts" half of those CD's and accounts to your mom, depending on the amounts I suppose there could potentially be some ramifications to him?

Also, who took care of expenses relating to your Grandma's health and care the last few years, and funeral expenses, and such? Was it your uncle?

Hope some of this is helpful.
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Old 11-18-2007, 11:28 PM   #4
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A link to WA State Bar info on probate, if you haven't seen this yet.

http://www.wsba.org/media/publicatio...ts/probate.htm
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Old 11-19-2007, 07:52 AM   #5
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Consult with a reputable trust and estates lawyer. There might be plausible explanations about the "will." For example, perhaps there is really no "will" to probate in the sense that your uncle or others cannot find the original will -- Grandma might have misplaced it or tore it all up. (Some county clerks or land registry offices provide for safekeeping of original wills, btw.) Perhaps, someone encountered a legal defect in probating the will -- for example, could be that the will was a handwritten document made by Grandma without all the legal formalities of a will, or maybe the will was never executed or acknolwedged before the requisite witnesses.

Thus far, from what you've posted -- especially since he is "gifting" half of the CD and depository accounts to your mother (accounts that legally belong to your uncle) -- it does not appear that your uncle is doing anything deceitful, other than perhaps not providing your mother the explanations about the will that you and your mother would like to hear from your uncle. He's been a great guy to you and your family, right, and managed Grandma's affairs. He might be a little annoyed and stressed about handling all of this stuff, and the initial inquiry might suggest he's taking advantage of the situation. Take a look at it from his side -- there might be a reason for him acting "weird" aside from the idea that he's doing something underhanded.

"Great guys" don't turn into bad guys overnight, even when money is involved. If a will has been probated, then it's a matter of public record, and anyone, including me, can go to the county records and get a copy of the will. If a document that purports to be a will has not been probated, then ask your uncle about that -- there could be a number of reasons for that occuring, not all of which are bad.
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Old 11-19-2007, 08:44 AM   #6
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So many possibilities. Maybe mom and uncle could just get together and chat a bit in person with a goal of preserving their relationship and honoring mom.

If the bank accounts/CDs were titled with uncle as POD or joint tenants, then technically they are his when she dies.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:41 AM   #7
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Awful situation. Too bad your Mom did not communicate the subject when your Grandmother was alive. When my Mother died I was the executor of the will and was named as sole heir. I could have kept what she had but she had also told me on a couple of occasions she wanted her Grandchildren to have her old Telephone Company Stock which was not in the will. Did the grandchildren get the stock - they sure did every penny. A will is not the tool to end all conflicts. I guess it comes down to the point where, unless your Mom and Uncle, can discuss this to everyones satisfaction it has the potential of ruining everyones future family relationship. IMO as the somewhat disinterested party in this you could and maybe should be the catalyst to effect the discussion.
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Old 11-19-2007, 03:07 PM   #8
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Awful situation. Too bad your Mom did not communicate the subject when your Grandmother was alive. When my Mother died I was the executor of the will and was named as sole heir. I could have kept what she had but she had also told me on a couple of occasions she wanted her Grandchildren to have her old Telephone Company Stock which was not in the will. Did the grandchildren get the stock - they sure did every penny. A will is not the tool to end all conflicts. I guess it comes down to the point where, unless your Mom and Uncle, can discuss this to everyones satisfaction it has the potential of ruining everyones future family relationship. IMO as the somewhat disinterested party in this you could and maybe should be the catalyst to effect the discussion.
You are right.. to a point.. if there is a diagreement that can not be talked through then the will is the 'end all conflict' as long as it was written correctly and without duress. The courts will decide based on the will.
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Old 11-19-2007, 04:31 PM   #9
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Not to possible "family conflicts" that have no rational or legal basis.
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Old 11-19-2007, 06:14 PM   #10
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Hmm....I have a very similar situation, but it's on the in-laws side so I have attempted to remain on the sidelines. When the estate was distributed, the heirs were simply given checks with no paperwork whatsoever. I did try to "leverage" details from the executor by requesting K-1 forms and/or an Estate Tax ID to file taxes for receipt of spouse's share, but was told there was no such paperwork available. I believe the heir's are REQUIRED to file K-1 forms. Have you requested the appropriate paperwork for your mom to file taxes?
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Old 11-19-2007, 07:05 PM   #11
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Jazz, I am not so sure that is the case for an estate that is not taxable or when no post death gains or losses of the estate are passed on to those who inherit.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:39 PM   #12
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Uncle is the one who lived within 20 miles of Grandma so he did the most work in handling her affairs although everything was paid for with her funds. If I was him, I would tell my mom I was taking an extra cut for all the extra work I did over the past seven years helping her since my grandpa died. I know my mom would be fine with that if he had just told her that (since we all know it's true). It's the secrecy thing that is totally out of character for our family.

The will is a "real" will and my uncle does not dispute that it is real or that he has it. My grandmother has been in moderately declining health for a couple of years although she was in fighting form until about 30 days prior to her death at 90. I'm pretty sure she had everything in proper order.

I had a great visit with her in early March and saw her about three times a year. Although I live over a thousand miles away and several other grandchildren live close, I think I visited her the most often (3 times a year). I was astounded to discover the cousin who helped get her admitted to the nursing home (uncle was in Oregon at the time) where she died, never visited her there. I flew out to be at her side for her final two days (as it turned out) and the only visitor in those 48 hours was my aunt and uncle for about an hour. I was a bit freaked out by that but the nursing home (which was fantastic) said it was not unusual for relatives to avoid the dying.

I see what you are saying about the assets being his at her death and then uncle gifting funds to my mom. Very interesting.

Both mom and I are more interested in the truth than the money. Mom will push on uncle a bit but I don't think she'll go much further. I am now extremely curious to see a copy of the will. I've never heard of any hard feelings between mom and uncle but they have never been close and rarely spoke other than when serious grandma issues arose, i.e. time to stop living on her own at 88 and move to an assisted living faciltiy (which she ended up loving).

The whole thing is just too weird.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:40 PM   #13
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Jazz, I am not so sure that is the case for an estate that is not taxable or when no post death gains or losses of the estate are passed on to those who inherit.
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Thats exactly what we were told, but I reminded them the accounts established to 'hold' assets until distribution were open for many months and must have paid gains and there was no response. The only other heir that cares pointed to a section of 'the code' indicating an estate ID was required. We don't care other than avoiding IRS problems....not concerned about the amount distributed or tax liability, but spouse can be fired for ANY tax filing irregularites. I am hoping turbotax will bail us out of having to pay a tax preparer.

Sorry not meaning to hijack thread, just wondering if it would be helpful for OP to discreetly request these docs (tax ID or K-1) from executor.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:43 PM   #14
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Wonder what they used as the tax payer ID to open the estate account.

Of course, if the accounts weren't interest bearing. . .
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:51 PM   #15
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I'll settle for a copy of will at this point! Not even worried about the tax documents right now.
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Old 11-19-2007, 09:59 PM   #16
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Sorry, got sidetracked. Remember though that not everything is dealt with in a will. If assets are held in joint tenancy they pass to the joint tenant no matter what a will says.
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Old 11-19-2007, 10:01 PM   #17
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Sorry not meaning to hijack thread, just wondering if it would be helpful for OP to discreetly request these docs (tax ID or K-1) from executor.
I would second that idea. Also, from what I read from the WA state bar site info on probate, OP is correct about the will having to be filed for recording with County within 40 days of death. So I would repeat idea of mentioning to uncle that 40 day deadline, and phrasing it if possible about not wanting him to get in trouble as executor by not turning over will to County for recording. Or maybe direct him to the WA state bar website-probate info so he can "discover" it for himself.

Lastly, Grandma *was* his mother. Perhaps he is dealing with his own grief issues, and/or other issues of winding down her affairs.

Maybe just a straight out face-to-face *but gentle* airing of the situation without rancor might get some questions answered? Like, if uncle really is "acting" like keeping secrets, pose just that question to him: "You kind of act like some of this info is a big secret--what's the deal here? We are all family. Don't we have a right to know about Grandma's final affairs? We don't care about the money and aren't accusing you of anything, we just think we have a right to know."

Or something like that. Good luck, hope your family situation resolves, and it would be great if you posted updates as the story unfolds. Hoping for a happy ending.
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Old 11-20-2007, 09:01 AM   #18
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My grandmother died in July 2007 in Washington State. She left a will and my uncle is the executor. My mom and my uncle are the two closest living relatives. From everything I have read, probate is not required in Washington in this situation as there are no assets to be retitled. I also read the will must be filed with the county within 40 days of the death which I am pretty sure has not been done since it is very easy to search for it on the county's website. I found other wills in their database, but not hers.

My mother and uncle both live in WA but about 90 minutes apart and in separate counties. My uncle lived relatively close to grandma and managed her affairs. Grandma had some CD's and some money in the bank which were titled with my uncle. My uncle told my mom he would send her half of the funds (gave her a $ amount) per the will. When my mom asked for a copy of the will, he started getting all weird on her and acted like she was making a big deal out of things.

My mom's suspicions are now raised as to what the will actually states and what the total assets were at the time of grandma's death. Does mom have any options to demand a full accounting of the funds at the time of death and a copy of the will without making it a gigantic deal?

Now I understand the stories people tell about things getting crazy with family over money when someone dies. My uncle is a great guy and this is all very unexpected.
OK, we all have been going back and forth with a bunch of stuff, and I am repeating myself a bit, but. . .

Keep things friendly with the uncle. It sounds like most assets were held jointly with the uncle. If that is the case it is possible that your mother isn't entitled to those assets and your uncle is being nice about splitting the money anyway. Maybe the only remaining assets are household stuff with little value. I know that there is a 40 day rule for filing a will, but I also know that this rule is ignored in a lot of places and its primary purpose is to flush out possible competing wills. So, as I said before, maybe mom should go visit her brother and have a nice friendly talk, remembering their mother, and asking gently about what she had.
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Old 11-20-2007, 10:57 AM   #19
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The will is a "real" will and my uncle does not dispute that it is real or that he has it.

Both mom and I are more interested in the truth than the money. Mom will push on uncle a bit but I don't think she'll go much further. I am now extremely curious to see a copy of the will. I've never heard of any hard feelings between mom and uncle but they have never been close and rarely spoke other than when serious grandma issues arose, i.e. time to stop living on her own at 88 and move to an assisted living faciltiy (which she ended up loving).

The whole thing is just too weird.
I have a will too, but it's not executed or filed with the county records, so it isn't something that could be probated, but it spells out my wishes; most of my property is jointly-owned or names my wife as a beneficiary so I'm not troubled at this point in not getting this straight. Eventually, I'll get around to getting some serious estate planning and have a real, real will. My dad had a will but we could never find the original and at that time, the county didn't offer safeguarding services. I have a copy of this will, but you can't probate copies except in very extraordinary and limited circumstances -- most jurisdictions have ironclad rules which call for the orginal to be probated.

So the question is, as mentioned before, if there is a real will, then why hasn't it been probated? For all we know, Grandma could have tore up the original and told your uncle to take care off business with your mother. As Martha said, there are lots of possibilities. If Grandma didn't own any real estate, then her will is really not that important, especially if there's limited personal property in her estate. The fact that you can't find the will in the county's data base, assuming you looked in the right places, suggests that there's no real, real will -- I could be wrong about that and that's why if you're really serious about getting the truth of the will then you need to get a lawyer to do the search.

Life is too short, especially when you're old like your Mom and Uncle, to let money get in the way of your family. Buckeye, I look at situations like yours as providing me with opportunities to heal old wounds or bridge gaps in relationships. The truth of the will would really be immaterial to me -- I wouldn't let it get in the way of things. As others have said, your Mom and Uncle should get together and talk about this and get it straight.
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Old 11-20-2007, 02:36 PM   #20
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Buckeye.......

I'm wondering if pushing your mom to ask her brother for a full accounting of his execution of their mom's will might lead to ill feelings that all will regret.

You say your mom's brother lived relatively close to their mom. Your mom lived within 90 minutes of her brother. So, your mom lived fairly close to her mom, easily close enough to have been an important part of her mom's care, etc. Was she? If so, it seems strange she doesn't know more about her mom's final wishes. If not, is there something going on in the relationship that her brother wishes to just let lie and not push to center stage? If your mom wasn't an important part of her mom's final years and care, despite living within a couple of hours, why not? Could brother be dissapointed in your mom's minimal involvement (if that's the case) and the payback now is minimal communication.

If it were me and I had reasonable knowledge of the financial situation, I'd let it go as long as the amount of $$$ I'm being sent is in the ballpark of what I'd expect.

Before you take the lid off this box, understand the pros and cons of knowing what's inside.

BTW, had a similar situation on the inlaw side of the family. So, at least as an observer, "been there, done that" and saw people live to regret it.......
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