No, what she did is not legal. Your daughter's property belongs to her estate after your daughter passed away. Only the person appointed as executor of her will or administrator of her estate can legally distribute an estate's property. It doesn't sound as if your daughter's brother-in-law's wife had been appointed by a court to handle the estate.
The bigger question is: what can you do about it? You could try to sue her, but I'm not sure it would be worth it, financially. Perhaps taking her to court would make you feel better, but it will be difficult to un-sell sentimental property that's been sold.
Your best route might be to have a local attorney draft a letter to the brother-in-law's wife demanding that she return the estate's property immediately so that it can be properly distributed in accordance with Texas law. This alternative would be affordable, and, hopefully, effective at getting the property rightfully returned.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this answer constitutes legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney. Further, nothing in this answer shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until you sign an engagement letter with the Firm. Visit http://www.shuttlawfirm.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call Mr. Shutt, a Dallas probate attorney and wills attorney, at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed.
Agree with Attorney Shutt. In addition to the suggestion of the letter, ask the attorney you consult with if going to court to compel her to return the items (called equitable relief/remedy) is a viable option. I am very sorry for your loss.
Mr.Scalise may be reached at 805-244-6850 or by email (email@example.com). 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. Mr. Scalise provides “unbundled” services for specific assistance with a specific issue.O work with clients throughout California.
Although this does not help you at this point, I often advise families with potential issues to make a date stamped video of the personal property in the house in anticipation of situations like this. It takes relatively little time.
NOTICE: The foregoing is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to create, and should not be construed as creating, an attorney-client relationship. Legal advice that you rely upon in making important decisions should only be obtained from direct communications with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction after there has been a full disclosure of all of the relevant facts. That said, you should never provide information that you intend to be confidential or privileged on a forum such as this, and you should never rely on information provided here as a substitute for such legal advice. Also, please note that any U.S. tax information provided above is not intended to be used, and may not be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties imposed under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or for promoting, marketing, or recommending any portion of this communication to any party.
I am incredibly sorry for your loss. I know this merely adds to the hurt. It would certainly not be legal in Texas, and I presume it would not be legal anywhere. From your facts, it sounds as though your daughter did not live in the State of Texas. You should probably contact an attorney in the state in which your daughter resided.
The above statements are provided as general information and not intended as legal advice. Each matter has its own set of unique circumstances that cannot be adequately addressed without consultation. You are strongly advised to hire an attorney licensed to practice law in your state to represent you.
I generally agree with all that my colleagues have said. You have been through a horrible ordeal with this, and the current issues have compounded the sense of loss.
It is impossible to answer your questions without additional information. You mention that your daughter was married. Did she have children? Did she have a Will? It is possible, if not likely, that the husband was your daughter's next of kin. In the absence of a Will, the husband would appear to have been the sole heir.
A California intestacy chart can be found, here: http://www.lyster.com/estates/post_mortem_probate/intestacy_chart.htm
So, if that is correct, then it would have been within the husband's rights to allow his sister to have these items. Whether that is true or not depends on facts which you have not included in your summary.
Having said all that, if there is something of your daughter's that you would like as a momento, then perhaps contacting your son-in-law and requesting it would be the best way to go, at this point. I do not see this as a legal issue, based on the limited information provided.
***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!