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I had an "iffy" family member pass and they left me money. Is it safe to use without any legal repercussions?

Palm Desert, CA |

It wasn't left in his will

Attorney Answers 3


Without knowing any more details, I would say it is not safe. You say there is a will that did not talk about this money. Most wills have what lawyers call a “residuary clause” where if that particular item is not mentioned, the asset would be distributed to the “residuary beneficiary.” As an example, I might give my gold watch to my oldest son, and give anything I haven’t specifically itemized to my wife. What the wife gets is “all the rest.” It may be that this money you are talking about is part of the “residuary.”
I suggest you find an experienced estate attorney to review the will and all of the facts you know about. Do this before you spend any of the money.

I have taken no action on your problem other than to review your question. I want to confirm that no attorney-client relationship has been created between our firm and you in connection with this matter, and that nothing in this response is legal advice to you. As you may know, the legislature and the courts can change the law in ways that may affect the strength of your case. In addition, the circumstances of your case may change. Because we do not represent you, we cannot keep track of, and inform you about, any change in the law. I must warn you that there are time limits for raising certain claims and defenses. Without taking more time to review your case, this firm cannot properly advise about those deadlines. You may lose your claims and defenses if they are not filed in court within the time allowed. I would advise you to retain the services of an attorney as soon as possible.

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I meant to say there wasn't a will

Gregory Philip Bowes

Gregory Philip Bowes


Even without a will, state law will dictate who is supposed to get the money. Consult with an attorney.


Multiple postings won't get you more or better answers.
Yes, based on your limited facts. As my colleague properly questions, how did he "leave" something to you without a will?

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

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My GUESS is that the money was left by way of beneficiary designation. If that is the case, then the money would pass outside of probate and outside the control of the Will. Given the relative was "iffy," however, you have more reason to be cautious than you might otherwise. I would recommend you consult with a probate attorney to review this, so you know where you stand.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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