Can my step-father keep all of the settlement from a wrongful death suit (for my mom) in California?
7 attorney answers
No he is wrong. A spouse and children have standing to sue for wrongful death. It has nothing to do with community property. If you and siblings are represented by an atty, especially if the same one representing your step dad, that atty should have explained this all when you hired him/her. The atty would not have agreed to represent you if you didn't have standing. The problem apparently will be how to divide the settlement. before the settlement can be effected, all the claimants have to sign off. That would require you and siblings to sign papers as well as step dad.
I don't know who your attys are, but you definitely need to talk with them. They should have filed a wrongful death claim for the people with standing. Your mother's estate may have also been able to make a claim, and step dad being the representative of the estate and you/siblings beneficiaries of the estate makes sense. However, often in Calif it doesn't make sense to file for the estate. The estate can only seek funeral expenses, and med expenses. if there is not much in those categories, it isn't worth the trouble. Also, there may be medicare or health plan liens that have to be paid out of those funds if recovered.
I wouldn't give your step-father's statement much weight. It's a simple question to ask for a California wrongful death attorney.
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At least in Oregon the wrongful death proceeds are allocated by statute to the spouse and the children. I would suspect that there is a similar statutory allocation in California but you will need to ask a California attorney. If you are a minor child, it may be that your share has to be held in trust for you until you become an adult. It is still your money, just not available to you yet. So be sure you are asking the right questions.
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State laws vary, so best to check with a local attorney. Avvo has a great "find a lawyer" tool to locate a local lawyer. Good luck.
In some states the wrongful death distribution is different from the intestate distribution. In other words, the beneficiaries for the wrongful death proceeds may or may not go to the same recipients as the probate assets. You will need to consult with a California attorney to determine whether you are a claimant on the wrongful death proceeds.
Sorry to hear about this awful situation. You will want to repost your question, however, under "California" because it is California state law that will answer your question (best to have a California lawyer give advice on California law). Best of luck.
This is not legal advice. This is to be used for educational purposes only.
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