Can I claim heirship if someone else has possession of my grandfather’s belongings?

It was recently discovered who my grandfather was and contacted the person who took care of him the last few years of his life. He died in 2014 This person claimed to have all of his belongings, including birth death and medical records, sheet music, memorabilia and photos. He offered to ship them to me and I paid to have them shipped but now he will not respond and I do not have my grandfather’s possessions. I have this person’s name address phone number, the receipt and have audio of him telling me that he has these things and will send them to me. Outside of stealing money from me, do I have a right to claim my grandfather’s property?

Asked on August 22, 2018 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

For purposes of your question, we will assume that you are an heir--that is, either there is a will leaving these things to you, or that if there is no will, your grandfather was not married when he passed away and your own parent is deceased, so that you are one of (if not the only) person who inherits via "intestate succession" (the rules for who gets what when there is no will). In this event, you would be entitled to his possessions. (If there is more than one heir--for example, there was not will, but you have a living aunt or uncle, or you have a living brother or sister, who also inherits--you and the other heirs will jointly or together inherit his belongings.) You could therefore sue the other person for these items. The lawssuit would have to be brought in "regular" county court, not small claims court, even if the monetary value would be low enough for small claims, since you need a court order requiring that these  specific items be turned over to you--small claims court cannot issue such orders, but only grants judgments for the monetary value of what was taken.


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