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I need to know if I have an enforceable verbal contract, contesting a beneficiary and probate questions

Wallingford, CT |

This question has to do with legal contracts and beneficiaries. My Father died recently he had been estranged from his children for a year or so after a horrible divorce. A few years before he died we became close again and stayed in contact. A year ago he had a massive heart attck and almost died. After his close call he told all of us that he had life insurance and 401k money set aside for us should anything else ever happen. Well, a year later we lost him suddenly to an intracranial bleed. We began to plan his funeral and go through the steps with probate to handle his estate. While we were doing this we found out 2 things
1) his brother broke into his apartment via drilling the locks out, and stole numerous items. Some were returned others were not
2)my father had started a new job durint the time period that we were estranged and he set his brother as beneficiary to his insurance and 401k.

The brother promised us in front of another of my fathers brothers and a funeral director that he would sign that money over to the children as it was what my father wanted. He is now going back on that word.

my questions are: since our uncle did promise to give us that money in front of wittnesses is that a verbal contract? do we have any chance getting that money?

is there any way we can contest him as the beneficiary?
Once the estate is given to us via probate can we press charges for him breaking and entering in the house? We have a wittness to that too

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Attorney answers 1


A gratuitous promise, even if based on something being morally right, does not create a contract unless the beneficiary promises something else in return. Generally, such one way promises are not enforceable, although there are exceptions that are best discussed in person with an attorney.

As for the break-in, you can certainly file a police report and begin the investigation, but only a person appointed as executor or administrator of the estate can truly "press charges," take recovery of the property, or sue him over the thefts. If the brother is named as executor in the will, you should hire an attorney to assist in ensuring that the court does not permit him to serve.

Attorney Rosenberg is admitted to practice in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and currently practices in South-Central Connecticut with an emphasis on estate planning, elder law, probate, and tax matters. He may be contacted confidentially by email at or by phone at (203) 871-3830. All correspondence through this website appears publicly, is not confidential, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Atty. Rosenberg. Discretion should always be employed when posting personal information online. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All online content provided by Atty. Rosenberg on this and other websites is provided for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. All content is general in nature. Attorneys are unable to ask the questions necessary to fully understand the legal issues faced by any particular poster. Postings and responses to questions only provide general insights on the topic discussed. They are not tailored to any reader’s specific situation, will not be accurate in all states, and are never updated or maintained to reflect changes in the law. No person should take action based on the information provided by anyone on or any other law-themed website without first consulting a local attorney with significant experience in your area of concern. Persuant to Circular 230, no online content may be used by any person to avoid taxes or penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.



there was no exeutor of the will named. All 3 children have filied with probate to become excutors of the estate.

Scott D Rosenberg

Scott D Rosenberg


That doesn't change the situation. The court has to appoint someone to administer the estate, be it one or several of you, or a neutral third party, and whoever is appointed has the legal standing to enforce the estates rights against your father's property.

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