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Old 07-22-2022, 12:06 AM
 
Location: Washington State
224 posts, read 234,216 times
Reputation: 292

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I'm currently on the verge of seeking legal help in connection with an estate matter (the estate locale is in Canada) of a type that I'm learning is all too common. I'm posting to learn from other peoples' experiences resulting from legal action of this kind.

By way of background, my Mom died about three years ago, and appointed my sister the executor. There was a home which has now been sold. The issue between us (my sister-executor, my brother and me) concerns inordinate and unexplained delays in the distribution of the proceeds from the home sale (and some financial accounts) and a delay in filing for probate. The amounts involved are in the low six figures per beneficiary.

Communication has mostly been cordial, but with my sister ghosting me much of the time by declining to respond to emails and phone calls. When she does reply, it's with brief cryptic messages which often reveal substantial ignorance about the legal processes involved and a lack of urgency in completing the tasks expected of her as an executor. Since my personal research and reading and initial contact with a lawyer suggest that I'm on strong legal ground, I find her relunctance to act surprising since litigation seems destined to cause both of us to waste money with the outcome not being in doubt.

My questions are directed to the following:

(a) What conditions have prompted board members to contact lawyers and to commence legal proceedings in estate matters?

(b) Did the legal actions proceed as expected in terms of cost, duration, and outcome?

(c) Did family estrangement result from taking legal action? If so, what stage of the process was critical to bringing the estrangement about?
(I realize the last part may be hard to answer. I ask because the actions available to me include initially just having the lawyer send the executor a letter. If no progress arises from that, the next step would involve starting legal proceedings. Thus, it would be helpful to know whether in other people's experiences, there was a difference between the executor receiving a lawyer letter and participating in legal proceedings).

Thanks in advance for any input the board can provide.

Last edited by june 7th; 07-22-2022 at 07:56 AM.. Reason: For clarity by mentioning why the thread is in the Canadian forum.
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Old 07-22-2022, 04:52 AM
 
Location: NJ
21,327 posts, read 29,030,576 times
Reputation: 25098
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager39 View Post
I'm currently on the verge of seeking legal help in connection with an estate matter of a type that I'm learning is all too common. I'm posting to learn from other peoples' experiences resulting from legal action of this kind.

By way of background, my Mom died about three years ago, and appointed my sister the executor. There was a home which has now been sold. The issue between us (my sister-executor, my brother and me) concerns inordinate and unexplained delays in the distribution of the proceeds from the home sale (and some financial accounts) and a delay in filing for probate. The amounts involved are in the low six figures per beneficiary.

Communication has mostly been cordial, but with my sister ghosting me much of the time by declining to respond to emails and phone calls. When she does reply, it's with brief cryptic messages which often reveal substantial ignorance about the legal processes involved and a lack of urgency in completing the tasks expected of her as an executor. Since my personal research and reading and initial contact with a lawyer suggest that I'm on strong legal ground, I find her relunctance to act surprising since litigation seems destined to cause both of us to waste money with the outcome not being in doubt.

My questions are directed to the following:

(a) What conditions have prompted board members to contact lawyers and to commence legal proceedings in estate matters?

(b) Did the legal actions proceed as expected in terms of cost, duration, and outcome?

(c) Did family estrangement result from taking legal action? If so, what stage of the process was critical to bringing the estrangement about?
(I realize the last part may be hard to answer. I ask because the actions available to me include initially just having the lawyer send the executor a letter. If no progress arises from that, the next step would involve starting legal proceedings. Thus, it would be helpful to know whether in other people's experiences, there was a difference between the executor receiving a lawyer letter and participating in legal proceedings).

Thanks in advance for any input the board can provide.


Did you get a copy of the will?

Have you considered that there is nothing to distribute because your mother made whatever payable on death to your sister, meaning she would not have to share it.

I'll be surprised if you did not go straight to mediation which could be very costly. Unfortunately, I know this, mediation cost me close to $150k, if I wanted to actually go to court, I'd need another $150k minimum. It was over another issue, I was being pushed out as executor, refused to step down because it's not what my dad wanted, we were very close, they were not.

I'm not sure this is the best place to post this. People in the retirement section could probably advise you more on specifics you may be able to check.

I did a google search to see about laws/rules in your state, assuming your mother was in the same. If not, did your mother live in a state where even though your sister was named the executor that she had to go to court to actually be approved by them? I would find that out.

See the google search below, there are some interesting entries for "people also ask". Do all estates have to go through probate? No. Does an executor have to act?



Google results - does an executor have to be approved by the court in Washington State




Washington Probate: An Overview
For many estates, probate is a simple process in Washington

Quote:
The personal representative can sell, lease, borrow against, or distribute estate property without the court's approval, and without giving notice to beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors.

Last edited by Roselvr; 07-22-2022 at 05:01 AM..
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Old 07-22-2022, 05:07 AM
 
Location: Washington State
224 posts, read 234,216 times
Reputation: 292
I wanted to avoid discussion of the details of estate law for several reasons. The estate locale is in Canada, and I know this is not the place to get input on Canadian law.

Also, I've already extensively explored the legal issues, and the concern I'm posting about is the risk of family estrangement rather than concern about the legal outcome. The thread title emphasizes that, but some of the questions may have strayed onto other issues.

More than anything else, the executor has stalled, ghosted the beneficiaries, and ignored various matters (like a risk of escheatment of various of the testator's financial accounts). She has never indicated that she believes the estate belongs to her. She is just not according the estate any significant urgency or attention.

So, again, family estrangement, not legal or financial outcomes, is the topic I hope to explore in this thread.

Last edited by june 7th; 07-22-2022 at 07:54 AM..
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Old 07-22-2022, 05:53 AM
 
2,780 posts, read 1,641,074 times
Reputation: 9734
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager39 View Post
She is just not according the estate any significant urgency or attention.
Is it intentional? Is she just overwhelmed, either by this process or by other demands in her life? Does she need help? Would she allow/want you to do all the legwork and for her just to file, do the official stuff, etc? Understanding the reason for the delay could go a looooong way to avoid hurt feelings, etc.
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Old 07-22-2022, 06:30 AM
 
7,582 posts, read 5,611,795 times
Reputation: 17014
We are somewhat estranged from my husband's sister for similar reasons. He is polite and will call her on her birthday, that's it. We have not interest in any social gatherings.

She also ghosted him, went against his wishes although they were supposed to be equal beneficiaries. She also delayed the sale of the house and final distribution of the money after spending most of it and then gave us a made up accounting. Worst, a $100K investment just disappeared.

The only way we got proceeds from the small home was that we pressured her to have the funds wired at closing.

If you want to try to keep a good relationship while hiring legal help, you can say your accountant wants you to get this completed for tax reasons. We ended up not getting an attorney, but considered it several times. Seems like it's very ugly for many families. Good luck.
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Old 07-22-2022, 07:54 AM
 
8,427 posts, read 3,396,658 times
Reputation: 6220
It's so weird to me how people act in these situations. If two people were granted an inheritance one withholding it from the other is stealing as far as I can't see. Having someone be the executor seems like a bad move. It's just sad that so many siblings stab each other in the back in these situations. Particularly over low 6 figures
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Old 07-22-2022, 08:46 AM
 
1,920 posts, read 1,047,988 times
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Voyager

Many people use a lawyer as an intermediary, that way lawyer gets to take the heat when they ask direct questions and state what the executors responsibilities are, in this case what you have not been getting. You might even suggest that this lawyer could wrap things up by helping your sister. Obviously it should be lawyer in that field and in the area.

I have been an executor and probably did not follow the legal rules (I still don't know what those are) but did keep my siblings informed and we discussed what steps I was taking and how things should be done with real estate, etc.

Your sister has not a lot of personal reasons to move fast, she may be losing support financially, even if she is not doing anything wrong (such as keeping money that isn't hers). Hiring a lawyer would at least get you satisfaction of getting information.

Again, tell your sister you know she needs "help" and the lawyer is being paid by you to help her get this big job completed.
It could be win-win.
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Old 07-22-2022, 10:09 AM
 
4,589 posts, read 2,650,449 times
Reputation: 17234
Having spent over a year doing probate on just one account due to an oversight in not naming a beneficiary, and using an attorney to help me, I can say that Covid made it a nightmare. Things should be better in that regard now, but it is a pain being the executor. I was the only inheritor and it was still difficult and time consuming.

Do you have reason to think your sister is trying to bilk the estate? Otherwise, consider what an attorney will cost.
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Old 07-22-2022, 03:39 PM
 
Location: Washington State
224 posts, read 234,216 times
Reputation: 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by msRB311 View Post
It's so weird to me how people act in these situations. If two people were granted an inheritance one withholding it from the other is stealing as far as I can't see. Having someone be the executor seems like a bad move. It's just sad that so many siblings stab each other in the back in these situations. Particularly over low 6 figures
Having one sibling be the executor is undoubtedly a bad move. In fact in a book on this topic called "Beyond the Grave" it's singled out as something not to do, along with jointly deeding property to the testator and one of the siblings for convenient access to the property. Sadly, both of those were done in this case.

At present though, I was hoping to tease out of the posting population information as to what step of the process was most likely to incur a family dispute, as ideally I'd like to move the estate process forward without incurring a family breakup. At this point, I can't tell what will happen.

I'm leaning towards proceeding with having the lawyer write a letter and framing this action in the spirit of us helping the executor deal with the executor job. Time will tell whether that works or not.
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Old 07-22-2022, 06:48 PM
 
8,427 posts, read 3,396,658 times
Reputation: 6220
I'm pretty sure my grandmother made my uncle the executor. He is a lawyer, makes more than any of the other siblings but the reason she chose him is because he's the oldest and a lawyer. Siblings are in their 70's now and one sibling still lives in my grandmothers house. I have no idea what will happen as time goes on but it seems like the grandkids will end up dealing with it. I dont think my grandmother ever thought she had much, all she ever really had was her home but it's worth over a million now. I had a close relationship with her and it feels kind of annoying to me that I'll have to split whatever with my cousin's wife who never even met her...but so it goes.
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