After the funeral I had to go back to Texas for two weeks. When I came back to her house to clean up the place and distribute with her husband her belongings, there were only two boxes with my name on it, full of my daughters old clothes, this woman took all of her clothes, shoes, purses jewelry all things I had given my daughter throughout the years including birthday gifts everything. Is that legal? She also took it upon her self to gave to her friends my daughters bathing suits (she was a bikini designer) Can she do that? I know nothing will bring my girl back but it was the most humiliating experience and this person didn't even take care of my child while she battled cancer. I did. I am so hurt please advise.
Wills and Living Wills Lawyer
No, what she did is not legal. Your daughter's property belongs to her estate after your daughter passed away. Only the person appointed as executor of her will or administrator of her estate can legally distribute an estate's property. It doesn't sound as if your daughter's brother-in-law's wife had been appointed by a court to handle the estate.
The bigger question is: what can you do about it? You could try to sue her, but I'm not sure it would be worth it, financially. Perhaps taking her to court would make you feel better, but it will be difficult to un-sell sentimental property that's been sold.
Your best route might be to have a local attorney draft a letter to the brother-in-law's wife demanding that she return the estate's property immediately so that it can be properly distributed in accordance with Texas law. This alternative would be affordable, and, hopefully, effective at getting the property rightfully returned.
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Estate Planning Attorney
Agree with Attorney Shutt. In addition to the suggestion of the letter, ask the attorney you consult with if going to court to compel her to return the items (called equitable relief/remedy) is a viable option. I am very sorry for your loss.
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Estate Planning Attorney
Although this does not help you at this point, I often advise families with potential issues to make a date stamped video of the personal property in the house in anticipation of situations like this. It takes relatively little time.
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I am incredibly sorry for your loss. I know this merely adds to the hurt. It would certainly not be legal in Texas, and I presume it would not be legal anywhere. From your facts, it sounds as though your daughter did not live in the State of Texas. You should probably contact an attorney in the state in which your daughter resided.
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I generally agree with all that my colleagues have said. You have been through a horrible ordeal with this, and the current issues have compounded the sense of loss.
It is impossible to answer your questions without additional information. You mention that your daughter was married. Did she have children? Did she have a Will? It is possible, if not likely, that the husband was your daughter's next of kin. In the absence of a Will, the husband would appear to have been the sole heir.
A California intestacy chart can be found, here: http://www.lyster.com/estates/post_mortem_probate/intestacy_chart.htm
So, if that is correct, then it would have been within the husband's rights to allow his sister to have these items. Whether that is true or not depends on facts which you have not included in your summary.
Having said all that, if there is something of your daughter's that you would like as a momento, then perhaps contacting your son-in-law and requesting it would be the best way to go, at this point. I do not see this as a legal issue, based on the limited information provided.
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