It has been over one year (this month,) since our grandfather died, and none the other family members have received a copy of the Will nor have any attempts been made to contact us.
The last conversation I had with my relative/executor (three months after our grandfather's death,) he stated he had just received the death certificate and he gave everything over to his attorney to handle.
It seems apparent to the family that this relative intends to keep everything to himself. The estate is not a large one, yet we would like to receive the little bit that we had been allotted to us. What can we do? This relative ignores any attempts to reach out. I live in Washington State, and the relative lives in California.
First, just because someone is named as executor does not mean they are. They have to be appointed by a court. Notice of Probate would have been required to all heir entitled to inherit by intestacy and all persons named in the Will. If the estate is under $150,000 in total assets, probate is not required because there is a way to claim such "small" property by affidavit for the benefit of, and distribution to, the beneficiaries.
It sounds like your relative is doing something under the table. You may need to retain a probate attorney. The Will does not need to be served on you but does need to be lodged with the court within 30 days of death (knowledge of the death by the person holding the original). In addition, if Probate was filed, the Will would have been attached to the Probate Petition. Check the court file.
If the family member has stolen the property, you could file for probate and go after the family member under Probate Code Section 850, and then 859 (double damages sections)
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Estate Planning Attorney
You should consult with and possibly retain a local attorney. For a referral, go to the San Bernardino Bar Association- http://www.sbcba.org
Mr.Scalise offers a FREE consultation; he may be reached at 805-244-6850 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). My responses to questions posted here intended as helpful legal information not legal advice. The information I post does not create an attorney-client relationship. Mr. Scalise is licensed to practice law in California. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state, and retain him/her.
An executor is not official until such time as the will is submitted to a probate court and this process requires all beneficiaries to be given proper notice and a copy of the will. I venture to guess that the named executor has not done so and is therefore not officially an executor under the law. Go see a probate attorney who can help you file your own petition to become the executor since the named person is perhaps an objectionable choice given the delay and unwillingness to assume the proper responsibilities of the fiduciary office
My answer is not intended to be giving legal advice and this topic can be a complex area where the advice of a licensed attorney in your State should be obtained.