Question: When my mother died, she left me all her jewelry, which is in a bank safe deposit box. How can I retrieve what my mother left me?
Background: My mother died and left a Will. She named my sister as the administrator of her estate. The other siblings and I can’t get her to respond to us, and now she has blocked our numbers. We have a copy of the original Will and we know what our Mom said in it.
Loraine’s Answer: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother.
I can’t tell from your post whether your sister actually has offered your mother’s Will for probate and been appointed as the Executor, or whether she is just nominated as the Executor by the Will. However, if the Will has not been admitted to probate, it will need to be admitted to probate and an Executor appointed. If your sister was nominated but is not willing to serve, then someone else (a nominated successor, if any, or someone else, if not) will need to become the Executor. The Executor’s job will then be to collect the estate’s assets, including the jewelry and any other assets that your mother had that became part of her estate; figure out which debts, expenses, and taxes need to be paid; and determine what other steps need to be taken to administer the estate. Once that process is complete, the administrator will make the proper distributions to the beneficiaries.
Because it sounds as if there may be disharmony in your family, and that the nominated Executor may be unwilling to do her job, I would strongly suggest that you consult an attorney who works with estate litigation and probate matters as soon as possible. The attorney can then help you figure out how best to protect yourself. The other family members may need to file a petition to have your sister compelled to produce the Will so that someone else can offer it for probate, or to have her removed as the Executor if she has already offered the Will for probate, so that the estate can be handled properly.
Key Estate Planning Takeaway: Family disharmony often complicates the administration of a deceased party’s estate – especially when the parties involved do not agree with what the Will stipulates. If you are involved in a situation like this and do not believe the Will has been honored, it is a good idea to engage an attorney that understands estate litigation and probate issues. Having an attorney represent you in these matters can often insulate you from the emotions surrounding the administration of the estate.
This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.