Can my father sue his brother to get back old photo albums that his brother stole?

About 3 years ago, my father’s mother passed away. Beforehand she left a Will stating that my father would decide how everything was distributed and no one else. Yet immediately after she died his brother went right to her house and gave everything away; he also took the special family albums that my father desperately wanted. Now, his brother refuses to give the albums back even though he knows that my father wanted them. To this day my dad is upset over his brother giving everything away and taking the albums. Is there any legal way to make the brother give the photo albums back to my dad?

Asked on February 27, 2016 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Stealing is not just a crime, it is a also a "tort," a civil wrong which may be sued over. Your father could sue his brother for the return of the album; since he is seeking a court order for its return and not simply the monetary value of the album, he can't sue in small claims court but rather needs to sue in "regular" district or county court. He would have to prove, whether by credible testimony or otherwise, that the album was given to him and not his brother, and that his brother took the album without permission.


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