My mother who is 88 lives in WPB, Florida. She was married to a man for 30 years who lived in Staten Island, NY. He passed away in February. They haven't lived together for 8 yrs due to health reasons, but had an amicable relationship and spoke almost every day. This man had a lot of money but gave my mother nothing but spending money for essentials. He hid his salary and pensions from her. He forged her name on tax forms and never gave her money from returns. He had money everywhere. When he became too ill from Parkinson's, he named his only son Power of Attorney and Executor of the Estate. He has now done everything in his power to stop my mother from getting his father's pensions and assets. The big pension was with the Government where he worked for 30 years and he told her that she would get $1700 a month. She has called the pension funds and they all seem to be very confused thinking she was divorced. She never got any information that a widow is entitled to. His son told her she would never get one dime of his father's money. He made his father sign many papers while he was close to death.
If they were married at the time of death she has rights. I suggest that you try using the Find A Lawyer tab on Avvo to look for a probate or trusts and estates lawyer as the Avvo rules do not allow the lawyers to solicit you.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been handling criminal defense and personal injury cases for over 18 years. The above answer, and any follow up comments or emails, is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
First, please understand that none of us here on avvo are allowed to solicit clients on this site. So, you'll have to reach out to one of us.
Beyond that, you've raised several issues here. Let me try to address them in the order in which they appear in your posting:
1. The fact that your mother and her husband had not lived together for several years will not affect any of this in the least. She is the surviving spouse. As such, in intestacy, she would get a bit more than 50% of the estate. If there was a will, she is entitled to file a surviving spouse's right of election, which is designed to assure that she would receive at least approximately a third of the estate.
2. In order to determine her rights pursuant to her husband's pension, that would have to be examined. But if indeed the paperwork suggest there was a misrepresentation of his marital status, that would have to be dealt with.
3. The fact that the son told her she would not get any of the decedent's money is of no concern. He can say whatever he wants. It sounds to me more like puffery than anything else.
4. When you say that the son "made" his father sign papers when the father was near death is something that must be investigated. First, one would have to know how he "made" his father do that, and, second, the fact that the father was near death in and of itself may not affect anything, but it wold be very relevant if the father were in a particularly vulnerable state or was medicated with drugs that might either weaken his resolve or would deprive him of decisionmaking. It is also important to understand what those "many papers" were.
There is, quite obviously, a number of things to look into here. There are available methodologies in Surrogate's Court to discover property withheld and to seek to invalidate documents that may have been fraudulently executed, i.e., a representation that your mother's husband was not married.
As noted, you will have to reach out to one of us who handles probate and estate proceedings here in NY.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
Mr. Haber has provided you with a great analysis and suggestions. Your mother should reach out to an experienced NY probate attorney as soon as possible to secure her rights.
Unless you are a client of Yuan Law Firm, APC, under a current and signed representation agreement, you should not rely upon any information provided in this Q&A as legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship between you and the attorney or the law firm. Circular 230 Advice: Pursuant to U.S. Treasury Department Regulations, we are required to advise you that, unless otherwise expressly indicated, any federal tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended or written to be used, and may not be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related matters addressed herein.
I agree with Mr. Haber. You need to consult with a NY probate attorney. As Mr. Haber said, your mother is entitled to her spousal election share. In NY one spouse cannot disinherit the other. More information would be needed to determine what if anything was part of his Estate and thus what your mother is entitled to.
The information contained in this post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not tax or legal advice on any subject matter. No readers should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice with respect to one’s particular circumstances. My firm disclaims liability with respect to acts taken or not taken based on any or all content. This is Attorney Advertising
Years licensed, work experience, educationLegal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awardsLegal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagementsDiscipline