What to do if I am the executor of my late mother’s Will and a beneficiary declined their inheritance but has now asked or it?

She left her dog to one of my brothers, however he said multiple times he did not want it. No paperwork was signed by him; we took him at his word. The elderly dog has lived with my sister for the last 20 months and is deeply rooted in the family. Now, after 20 months, he is demanding the dog be “handed over to him”. Can we file a petition to stop this or will that invalidate me as executor? He his threatening to have me removed if I do not hand the dog over.

Asked on March 6, 2015 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Here is the thing: in New York, if you choose to renounce your inheritance you must do so in writing within 9 months of the death of the decedent. Now, you as the Executor took legal titles to the assets of the estate on the death of your Mother.  If your brother refused to take the inheritance and refused to state so in writing, the question becomes did you have to keep the inheritance safe for his benefit or could you "redistribute" same to other beneficiaries? You had an obligation to advise him of the proper way to make disclaim the inheritance. However, if the deal was made between your brother and sister - he didn't want the dog and she agreed to take it - that "deal" may be enforceable BY HER.  There is case law that supports promises made to eachother as siblings regardless of what a parent's Will states.  I would tell your sister to speak with an attorney. Good luck.


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