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My daughter died and her brother in law's wife went to my daughters house taking all her personal belongings. is that legal?

Plano, TX |

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.

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

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.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this answer constitutes legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney. Further, nothing in this answer shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until you sign an engagement letter with the Firm. Visit http://www.shuttlawfirm.com or email ishutt@shuttlawfirm.com. You may also call Mr. Shutt, a Dallas probate attorney and wills attorney, at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed.

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Posted

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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Posted

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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Posted

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.

Best regards.

The above statements are provided as general information and not intended as legal advice. Each matter has its own set of unique circumstances that cannot be adequately addressed without consultation. You are strongly advised to hire an attorney licensed to practice law in your state to represent you.

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3 comments

Asker

Posted

She was California resident. Thank you for your help.

Robert Neil Newton

Robert Neil Newton

Posted

Where in CA?

Asker

Posted

Los ANgeles, she passed away at UCLA Ronald Reagan and was a resident of West Hollywood. She had turned 28 last month.

Posted

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.

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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Posted

My daughter had just turned 28 and never had children. She did not have a will and the person that took the items was my son in law's sister in law. No relationship to my daughter as she is married to my son in law's brother. He said he asked her to help put those things away because the apartment was going to be showed to prospect tenants and she took it upon herself to take them to her house. Once I arrived to CA I asked my son in law and he immediately called her in my presence and asked her to make the items available to me. The following day I went to her place and again, only two boxes had been left on the hallway with old clothes, none of her jewelry which I purchased most of it, her work clothes, all her bikini line collection, all missing. I purchased most of these items for my daughter, including my own artwork that I gave to her through the years. I emailed my son in law but haven;t heard anything from me aside from that his ister in law "undriended" me from facebook. Alas! I know it's childish and sad to see the worst in some people. As if losing my first born wasn't enough.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Posted

Just a horrible situation all the way around. I am so sorry you had to deal with this. It is something no parent should ever have to live through.

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