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What are our rights as beneficiaries with a PA Will?

Erie, PA |

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?

Attorney Answers 3


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.

The comment provided above is intended as general information and IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. If your question concerns an Estate Planning, Elder Law, or Long Term Care Planning matter governed by the laws of the State of North Carolina, please contact me for personalized service. (910) 762-1577.

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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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Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is . For further tax advice check out his website is . and his blog is >

LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is , his website is and his blog is <> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.

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Mr. Fromm, There is no proof that things were ever gifted to her or jointly purchased. She did not have the financial means either. Her lawyer states it doesn't have to be proventhat they were gifted or joint. They had one joint credit card, because she had no credit and one joint account in case something happened to my father, which she claimed was empty. I know that my father was employed, financial capable to purchase items for his home. It was my father's home and he had items in the house that were only his. How can one get away with falsly claiming they were gifts to her (since I can prove that they were his prior to their relationship through video documentation) or purchased jointly? As executor don't you have to be honest if you have been sworn in? And don't my sister and I own half of my father's home since we are 50% beneficiaries so don't we have the right to have her removed from something we share in ownership? We feel that since she is hiding things and stealing we have grounds. What are our rights since nothing was "specificly" stated?


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.

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