My husband's grandfather passed away in the Seattle area and we live in Chicago. We had a copy of the will but now my husband's uncle says the will was changed a few months ago. Before, the will was split between my husband (daughter's only son) and his uncle. Now we are told it is divided so the uncle get half and the rest is divided among the 3 grandchildren (my husband and the uncle's 2 kids). My husband does not trust his uncle is dividing everything fairly. His uncle has already stated that he has given the nicest furniture to his kids and that he was taking a large antique hutch. When we expressed interest in some items he said they weren't worth shipping and forget about them. He then said everything else would be given away or trashed. Is there something we should be doing?
That does sound like an uncomfortable situation.
Shipping furniture across country is expensive and the cost of doing it is usually the heirs responsibility unless the will suggests otherwise from my experience. I can't tell without meeting the Uncle whether he is being fair and practical or is he taking advantage of distance. Did you offer to pay for shipping?
Are we talking about personal property of great financial or emotional value?
You should have a copy of the newer will. If not get one. It has to be filed with the court within 30 or so days after the person has passed away. If there is a probate, you will get an inventory within 90 days of the probate being started.
Did the decedent own real property. If so, get some idea about valuation. If he did not, that would suggest to me that the Uncle would try to get the personal property distributed to whomever he could that was nearby to get the rental residence cleared out so someone else could rent it.
When it comes to personal property that does not have substantial value, I think unequal distributions to those nearby is pretty common since it is just too expensive to pack and ship. Plus, it is a lot of work for the PR who usually does not request to be paid. There are ways to contest it but the fees compared to the value have to be really looked at.
The best protection is to hire local counsel to send Uncle a letter to say you are represented and to protect your interest. You really need to know though what value the estate has and what your goals are. You just do not want an uncomfortable expensive estate dispute that has marginal economic benefit to you.
The fact that the grandfather changed his will a few months before he died is a little uncomfortable because it suggests that there might be undue influence. Conversely, his child and grandchildren who were nearby may have been a big part of his last years so a change may not be so uncomfortable.
You can give me a call for a brief comfort consultation over the phone (206-583-2740). That may be all that is required.
You may hire an attorney to challenge the executors action in court to insure he is following the wishes of the decedent.
The information is for general information purposes only. Nothing stated above should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.
I agree with the attorney below that it may just take representation to protect your interests. You need to balance representation against the cost of a will dispute (called TEDRA - Trust and Estates Dispute Resolution) in WA. The PR generally will have authority to distribute assets in his best judgment as long as it does not conflict with the terms of the will. I also agree that there may have been some undue influence - however those cases are very difficult to prove. I think you should consult with an attorney to weigh your options.
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