My father died in 7/12.he left me a transfer on death brokerage account.now my step mother is claiming

Asked about 2 years ago - Kent, WA

1/2 the account as community property.she has to prove it is community property ,her name was never on the account.My fahter and her kept all their finances seapate yet she told her attorney a different story.the brokerage will accept her attorneys affadavit saying she has an interest what can we do other than file a law suit against her to prove other wise?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Thuong-Tri Nguyen

    Contributor Level 20

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . "she has to prove it is community property". This may not be true since WA is a community property state. If the brokerage account is funded by community property (such as the spouses' wages), both spouses have a financial interest in the account regardless of whose name is on the account, unless the spouses have an agreement as to who is the owner of the account. The person claiming that wages are not community property would be the one with the burden of proving that the wages are separate property.

    One spouse cannot give away the property belonging to the other spouse without the other spouse's consent. So, if the account has community property, your father cannot give away his wife's share without her consent.

    The brokerage is not going to get involved in determine whose money it is. The brokerage likely will start a court action, deposit the disputed funds into the court's registry, and let you and the stepmother argue with each other in court whose money it is.

    You should review the specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.

  2. Karl L. Flaccus

    Pro

    Contributor Level 5

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . If a brokerage account can be traced back to before the marriage to the second (or later) spouse, and those funds have not been intermingled with community property, then the step mother would not have a community property interest in the brokerage funds. This is not an unusual circumstance, especially where the marriage is relatively short and/or the father had legal advice about how to keep separate property separate.

    So, look closely at the nature of those funds to determine whether they are separate or community. I recommend that you hire a Washington lawyer to sort this out.

    Karl Flaccus

    This information is intended as general information only, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.... more
  3. John Andrew Tomlinson

    Contributor Level 10

    5

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . I am not familiar with Washington laws but your step mother may have a valid claim for the funds. You should speak with a local attorney about your situation just to be sure. If the funds were kept separate and your father was the only contributor to the account you may have the ability to fight her claim. Whether you really dig in and fight will depend on how much money is involved and if you want to maintain a relationship with your step mother.

    I am licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. This answer is intended only to provide general information... more
  4. James P. Frederick

    Contributor Level 20

    3

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . Attorney Tomlinson has given you an excellent answer. If the account is significant, then it is worth consulting your own attorney to discuss defending it.

    This is one of those cases where it could easily be an all of nothing decision, (well, HALF or nothing, for the wife). It will also cost you something to defend this, and perhaps a significant amount, if the wife is determined. You might all consider trying to arrive at an acceptable compromise, or agreeing to facilitation or mediation, as an alternative to taking this to trial. That will limit your expenses and the time that the money is tied up.

    Best of luck to you!

    James Frederick

    *** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more

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