Isn’t this all illegal?

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Isn’t this all illegal?

My grandparents passed away several months ago. A lawyer was made executor of the estate and has taken possession of their real estate. We have lived in a trailer, belonging to them, for 20 years and he is trying to get us to leave. He claims there is no will, even though he is he one whom drew it up for them. He has has their home cleared out, gave away all their possessions to the workers who cleaned it out. And now is attempting to clean out our home which we still live in. Does he have rights to our belongings? We have not been served eviction papers. However, I know they have sent legal papers to the next door residense also my grandparents’ before thinking we live there. If they sent them there, would we still be considered evicted?

Asked on August 11, 2017 under Estate Planning, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

An executor has no right to any of the deceased's belongings, unless the will actually leaves them to him. Rather an executor must obey the will--that is his legal duty--and distribute the deceased's assets as per the will. If he is an executor, there must be a will: executors are appointed by will.
As someone who likely would inherit, either under a will (which would reasonbly or likely have left something to you, as grandchildren) or if there was no will under "intestate succession" (the rules for who gets what when there is no will), you have "standing," or a legal right to seek court help. You can bring an action in court seeking to have the executor justify his actions--i.e. how they comport with the will. (And note: that if there is no will, not only should he not be the executor, but as a non-family member, he would have NO rights to property or belongings--intestate succession does not leave anything to non-family.) If he has exceeded his authority or taken or given away things he cannot, he can be forced to personally repay the value of what he improperly did or took. 
Ideally, retain a probate attorney to help you: this kind of legal action can be procedurally complex. If you simply cannot afford a lawyer, contact the clerk's office at the probate court to ask about where to find instructions and possibly sample or template forms. Good luck.


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