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Ensuring a proper Estate dissolution
Old 02-20-2020, 02:23 PM   #1
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Ensuring a proper Estate dissolution

My new son-in-law asked for some advice.

Last month his grandmother passed away suddenly. The grandmother was divorced and had not remarried. The grandmother had 2 children, a grown daughter, lets call her "Susie", and a son who also passed away suddenly 3 years ago. The son, before his own passing, had married, had 4 children (1 of them being my son-in-law), and then divorced.

Unless stated otherwise in a will, I believe the daughter is entitled to 50% of the estate, and the 4 children of the son are entitled to the other 50% of the estate.

Since the death of the grandmother, there has been no mention of a will. There has been no mention of money, assets, estate, etc. There has been no communication whatsoever. It has been 1 month.

There is more to it. The daughter, Susie, was living with the grandmother at the time and has been for some time, and is unemployed/underemployed. Susie has a storied past with many bad decisions over the years, and at some point moved back in with her mom. It is presumed the grandmother was supporting her daughter to some unknown extent. I don't know any other details. The concern is the daughter will believe all the assets are hers and will continue to live as she has been doing off those assets, and/or squander the money.

He asked what he should do about inquiring about the status of the estate. My advice was to wait another month or 2 to allow time for grieving and people to adjust, then ask his Aunt (Susie) on the status/situation, and what is going on. I'm not sure that's great advice. Obviously the fear is that by waiting too long, the money could be gone, or otherwise untraceable.

The amount of the estate is not known. Several numbers have been thrown around. Some numbers were of a significant amount. I also suggested to my son-in-law if it is not a significant amount of money, then let the daughter have it all. But if it is a significant amount of money, then he is entitled to his share and should pursue it.

Let's suppose the initial conversation with Aunt Susie goes nowhere. What should he do? Family meeting? Lawyer? Goverment? something else?

Thanks in Advance!
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:58 PM   #2
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It is possible the grandchildren are supposed to split 50% of the estate, but it really depends on the state.
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:40 PM   #3
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If grandmother passed without a will, then the laws of intestacy in her state of residence when she died should control what happens to her estate.

See here for state by state rules:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclope...ate-succession

In general if any bank or investment firm where grandmother has accounts finds out she has passed away, then they will immediately lock those accounts until the executor or the court properly directs them to disburse the money. Or, if the accounts happen to have named beneficiaries or a TOD/POD designation, then any beneficiary can provide a death certificate and those funds will then be transferred according to the beneficiary or TOD/POD designation.

If Aunt Susie or any other heir commits fraud with the money (spending it when it's not theirs), then really the only recourse is to sue for damages (anything SIL should have gotten but didn't because bad relative spent it fraudulently). Which is fraught with financial and family relationship risk.

If your SIL happens to know grandmother's details (birthdate, legal name, SSN, address), he could proactively notify any banks or investment companies (and credit card companies and Social Security and the IRS) of her death. That would at least make any fraud more difficult. Note this also comes with family relationship risk.
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Old 02-20-2020, 04:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
If grandmother passed without a will, then the laws of intestacy in her state of residence when she died should control what happens to her estate.

See here for state by state rules:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclope...ate-succession

In general if any bank or investment firm where grandmother has accounts finds out she has passed away, then they will immediately lock those accounts until the executor or the court properly directs them to disburse the money. Or, if the accounts happen to have named beneficiaries or a TOD/POD designation, then any beneficiary can provide a death certificate and those funds will then be transferred according to the beneficiary or TOD/POD designation.

If Aunt Susie or any other heir commits fraud with the money (spending it when it's not theirs), then really the only recourse is to sue for damages (anything SIL should have gotten but didn't because bad relative spent it fraudulently). Which is fraught with financial and family relationship risk.

If your SIL happens to know grandmother's details (birthdate, legal name, SSN, address), he could proactively notify any banks or investment companies (and credit card companies and Social Security and the IRS) of her death. That would at least make any fraud more difficult. Note this also comes with family relationship risk.
Great link, I should have thought to check Nolo!

And I came to the same conclusion about fraud and how it could be prevented, but I thought it would take a death certificate to freeze an account. But I guess they can check the SS register...assuming that Aunt Susie isn't trying to keep collecting grandma's SS check!
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by The Cosmic Avenger View Post
...assuming that Aunt Susie isn't trying to keep collecting grandma's SS check!
That's a fair assumption to make, happens all the time, so preemptively notifying the institutions holding grandma's money is a good idea. Although the funeral home is supposed to notify SS of someone's passing, that too occasionally doesn't happen, or SS drops the ball, and the checks/deposits continue, sometimes for years.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Cosmic Avenger View Post
Great link, I should have thought to check Nolo!

And I came to the same conclusion about fraud and how it could be prevented, but I thought it would take a death certificate to freeze an account. But I guess they can check the SS register...assuming that Aunt Susie isn't trying to keep collecting grandma's SS check!
Was there a burial ?
Check with the funeral home to see if they notified SS.
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Old 02-21-2020, 08:48 AM   #7
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Hopefully the daughter didn't convince her mom to jointly title (or name daughter POD beneficiary) on the financial accounts before grandma died.
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:06 AM   #8
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Keep in mind this is free advice from a stranger online.


I think 1 month's time is adequate and it would not be disrespectful to bring the topic up to Susie now. If 1 month isn't adequate is it going to be much better in 2 or 3 months ? I think it would get harder the longer Susie gets to keep living on Grandma's assets.


If I were your SIL I wouldn't offer to give up any inheritance. Once he receives it he can give it to Susie, but don't walk away from it. He has to think about his own family and his 3 siblings. Dividing things equally according to the will or state law is the only fair way and best way to keep peace in the family.


Another concern is potential liability. Is there real estate or a car involved ? If so the new owners (heirs) could have a liability exposure that they need to address. Property/Casualty insurers should be contacted. If there is a vacant house that needs to be addressed sooner than later.


I'd bring the topic up to Susie soon, if she doesn't respond SIL should offer to find an attorney to help with the estate. I learned a while ago that when a situation comes up and you think you "might" need an attorney, you already do need an attorney.


Best of luck.
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
If grandmother passed without a will, then the laws of intestacy in her state of residence when she died should control what happens to her estate.

See here for state by state rules:

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclope...ate-succession

In general if any bank or investment firm where grandmother has accounts finds out she has passed away, then they will immediately lock those accounts until the executor or the court properly directs them to disburse the money. Or, if the accounts happen to have named beneficiaries or a TOD/POD designation, then any beneficiary can provide a death certificate and those funds will then be transferred according to the beneficiary or TOD/POD designation.

If Aunt Susie or any other heir commits fraud with the money (spending it when it's not theirs), then really the only recourse is to sue for damages (anything SIL should have gotten but didn't because bad relative spent it fraudulently). Which is fraught with financial and family relationship risk.

If your SIL happens to know grandmother's details (birthdate, legal name, SSN, address), he could proactively notify any banks or investment companies (and credit card companies and Social Security and the IRS) of her death. That would at least make any fraud more difficult. Note this also comes with family relationship risk.
Good advice. Unless Aunt Susie is named on grandmother's accounts she should not be able to pilfer them... and at the same time grandmother's bills won't be paid unless they are on autopay.

The funeral home normally notifies SS of the death so that should be taken care of.

If there are accounts that grandma and Susie jointly owned then they go to Susie no matter what the will says.
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