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Should I hire a probate attorney immediately concerning my grandfather's estate?

Houston, TX |

My mother died unexpectedly ten years ago. At the time, she one was of 4 siblings who was heir to my grandfather's estate, cash estimated value of $5 million. No property, just cash!
The glitch is that my grandfather died unexpectedly, just a few months AFTER my mother, so he more than likely had no chance to take her name out of his will, which means he did NOT disinherit me. None of my mother's siblings got an inheritance upon his death, instead, I assume my grandmother gained access or whatever you call it when the survivng spouse lives off the funds, but it doesn't get dispursed yet for tax reasons. I beleive, upon her death, which is any minute now, my aunt has taken power of attorney and claimed there is no money left. What can I do?

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer
Posted

I have to agree with the previous responses that you're making an awful lot of assumptions and guesses that may not ring true. This may be due in large part to you not having much information for yourself, which is perfectly understandable.

Probably the best answer to your ultimate question is to suggest that you wait until your grandmother passes. I'm assuming that you've already been to the County Clerk and read your grandfather's Will that was admitted to probate. If you haven't done that, do it. You won't be assuming and guessing anymore. I'm also assuming that by your reading of the document, you will have some standing as a beneficiary when your grandmother dies. If you aren't sure, take the document to an attorney to read it for you.

If you're correct that your grandmother has a lifetime right to all of the estate (which wouldn't be odd) but no right to direct how any of the remaining estate passes (which would be only a little odd), then you are entitled to see the documents that grant you any of your rights. You would be entitled to see her Will, or the Trust, or whatever document confers upon you the right to inherit.

This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Texas only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Texas. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should never rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship.

Asker

Posted

I believe the part I left out, is probably the most pertinent. The aunt, who recently gained power of attorney, told me that there "was not one penny left" of my grandfsther's money"...about 6 months ago, but her husband told me last week that there were MILLIONS...the fact that she lied, told me that there still are millions, AND that I have legal right to it, or she wouldn't have felt the need to lie. I also feel the need to point out that my grandmother is a financial "hoarder" and saves a few thousand still, every month, wears rags that are 30 years old, and has lived in a paid for shack of a home for over 60 years that I would never even spend one night in. There was $2 million, 25 years ago, solid cash, in the bank, earning interest, plus more being thrown into the pile every month, so I knew my aunt was lying, so I "know" I have claim. So I suppose what you are saying is that I have to go to the town my grandpa lived in, go to the probate courthouse, look up the death records, there it should be a matter of public record what his will was. From there, I will hire an attorney to freeze the assets immediately upon the death of my grandma, before my aunt disperses the funds. I fear she plans on just quietly writing checks among her siblings and not addressing the will at all, just liquidating on her own or changing the will now that she has POA

James Brian Thomas

James Brian Thomas

Posted

That is a pretty pertinent fact. Also, I hope you didn't take my earlier response to be too negative, but it sounds like a lack of information drives at least some of your suspicion. As for driving to your grandfather's last residence, make a call first. Better yet, check to see if that county's probate records are online. These days, you can find out almost instantly if a decedent's Will was filed for probate. Ordering a copy of the Will for yourself may be as simple as giving them a credit card number. Bear in mind that if your grandfather's assets pass through a Trust only, there might not be anything on record with the county. Wills are probated. Trusts are not. It doesn't mean you should stop looking, just that you need to look elsewhere for your answers. Although I strongly encourage you to visit with an attorney soon, (since your grandmother's death seems close at hand) I doubt that you'll have much luck "freezing" assets immediately. I know that it sounds a little odd in this scenario, but sometimes you actually have to wait until somebody does something wrong before you have a right to complain in court. If you're right, and if your grandfather's and grandmother's estate plans are designed the way that you imagine they are, asserting your claims should not prove tremendously difficult.

Posted

One's probate estate consists of assets that were in the person's name at the time of his or her death. It does not include assets that pass outside probate, such as jointly-held property or property for which there was a designated beneficiary. Your posting did not provide any information about how the approximately $5 million held by your grandfather was held -- while you assume that his will provided for his assets to be held in a marital trust until his wife's death, you don't actually know. You similarly don't know any of the assets was held.

Likewise, you say nothing about the provisions in his will. We don't know whether your mother was a named beneficiary of the will, or whether the will provided that a beneficiary must survive the testator by a fixed period of time in order to inherit, or whether assets bequeathed to a person (i.e., your mother) would abate in the event of the person's death or whether such assets would pass to the issue (descendants) of that person.

What you can do is consult with a local attorney. In doing so, you should bring a copy of your grandfather's will and provide all of the information that you know concerning the assets of the estate.

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.

Posted

I agree with the prior poster regarding the fact that there are just too many unknowns here to answer your question. The real key is what Mr. Haber mentions about "per stirpes" distribution. The will and/or trust has to be read to determine if your mother's share passes to her children (you) or not if she fails to survive your grandfather. This is typical in many wills, but not required or absolute.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

Posted

You may have a case. A lawyer would need to review the Will. Just because your mother passed doesn’t mean your generation was to be excluded. It is not uncommon for those with POA to say there are no assets anymore. You need to talk to attorney and give them your supporting documentation if any.