I live in CA and my father passed in PA with a will 6 months ago. He named his girlfriend executor. The will claims she inherits 50% of his assets, my sister 25% and myself 25%. His assests aren't specifically mentioned. She has hired a lawyer and is being dishonest about my father's possessions. We requested a written appraisal of his possessions and she provided an incomplete list with 10 items and is denying us 5 out of the 10 items. My father recently inherited approx $400,000 prior to his death from my grandfather. His girlfriend claims my father had no money when he died and that all his possesssions were gifted to her or joint when he died. He died of a sudden heart attack. I even have video documentation of his property prior to her. What do we do?
Elder Law Attorney
Your father's will covers only his probate assets. Probate assets are those assets which are owned solely by your father when he passes away and have no beneficiary designations. If your father held joint accounts with right of survivorship with his girlfriend, then she would have become sole owner of those assets when he passed away, regardless of his will provisions. Additionally, if he had certain assets (whether bank accounts, cd's, life insurance, annuities, etc.) which were "payable on death" or "beneficiary designated" to certain individuals (perhaps his girlfriend), those assets would have also been distributable outside of his will provisions. Unfortunately, it sounds as if this was the case in your situation and why his girlfriend is saying that some of the assets do not belong in his probate estate and hence are not distributable according to the terms of your father's will.
If you believe that your father was unduly influenced (normally due to lessened mental capacity), then you may be able to hire a probate attorney to litigate your father's presence of mind in placing certain assets in accounts so that they would be non-probatable. Otherwise, you may have a difficult time pursuing any claims. Your father owned his assets prior to death and had complete ability to leave those assets to whomever he wished upon his passing.
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The prior attorney offers sound advice. The only thing to add is that the facts here really matter. If you can show she was overreaching, putting duress on your dad to make these lifetime transfers, then you may have something to pursue. But the burden of proof is on you to prove duress or overreaching. You may want to gather all your evidence and discuss this with an estate attorney in Erie.
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Estate Planning Attorney
The prior two attorneys are quite correct in all they say. It will likely be difficult to gather evidence to prove any wrongdoing on the girlfriend's part.
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship.