My brother passed and had no children or wife. His girlfriend is holding all of his belongings, so what rights do I have ?

My oldest brother passed unexpectedly in April, his girlfriend since that time refuses to give his familyme and my two sistersany of his belongings and will not give up his ashes. He had no children and his will was verbal between myself and him. His personal belongings are family treasures and I want to know what my rights are to bring him and his belongings back to the family. I live in Nebraska, he lived in Golden, Colorado.

Asked on October 16, 2017 under Estate Planning, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First, there is no such thing as a "verbal" (the better term would be "oral," by the way) will: only a properly signed and witnessed written will has any effect.
If there is no will, his belongings pass by "intestate succession" (the rules for who gets what in the absence of a will). In your state, if your parents are not still alive and your brother had no children, then his siblings inherit *everything* and a "girlfriend" gets nothing if there was no will leaving things to her: "girlfriend" is not a legally recognized relationship. The only things she can keep are her belongings (100% hers) and her "share" of things the two of them bought together (assuming she can prove that)--so if the two of them bought an expensive sofa jointly, for example, she is entitled to 1/2 its value. Anything he inherited, owned before her, or bought only with his money is inherited by you and your siblings. You can sue her for a court order requiring her to turn over physical property to you, to pay you the value of anything she has lost or destroyed or sold, and to return money, etc. to the "estate." The suit should be brought by your brother's estate, by the estate's court-appointed adminstrator or perosnal representative, who has the legal authority to act on the estate's behalf. So you have two tasks: first, get one of the three of you appointed by adminstrator or personal representative (states vary in which term they use); and then second, that person suing the girlfriend. A probate attorney should be able to help you with both; you and your siblings are urged to consult with one.

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