I need to know if I have an enforceable verbal contract, contesting a beneficiary and probate questions

This question has to do with legal contracts and beneficiaries. My Father died recently he had been estranged from his children for a year or so after a horrible divorce. A few years before he died we became close again and stayed in contact. A year ago he had a massive heart attck and almost died. After his close call he told all of us that he had life insurance and 401k money set aside for us should anything else ever happen. Well, a year later we lost him suddenly to an intracranial bleed. We began to plan his funeral and go through the steps with probate to handle his estate. While we were doing this we found out 2 things 1) his brother broke into his apartment via drilling the locks out, and stole numerous items. Some were returned others were not 2)my father had started a new job durint the time period that we were estranged and he set his brother as beneficiary to his insurance and 401k. The brother promised us in front of another of my fathers brothers and a funeral director that he would sign that money over to the children as it was what my father wanted. He is now going back on that word. my questions are: since our uncle did promise to give us that money in front of wittnesses is that a verbal contract? do we have any chance getting that money? is there any way we can contest him as the beneficiary? Once the estate is given to us via probate can we press charges for him breaking and entering in the house? We have a wittness to that too

Wallingford, CT -

Attorney Answers (1)

Scott D Rosenberg

Scott D Rosenberg

Probate Attorney - New Haven, CT

A gratuitous promise, even if based on something being morally right, does not create a contract unless the beneficiary promises something else in return. Generally, such one way promises are not enforceable, although there are exceptions that are best discussed in person with an attorney.

As for the break-in, you can certainly file a police report and begin the investigation, but only a person appointed as executor or administrator of the estate can truly "press charges," take recovery of the property, or sue him over the thefts. If the brother is named as executor in the will, you should hire an attorney to assist in ensuring that the court does not permit him to serve.

Attorney Rosenberg is admitted to practice in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and currently practices in South-... more

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