If my dad recently passed away with no Will and his girlfriend emptied his accounts, what is our recourse?

He lived at his girlfriends house for 18yrs. My dad had 2 bank accounts, amounting to about $75k. The 2 accounts were in his name only. Somehow, the girlfriend was able to empty both accounts. On 1 account, she transfered all the money to her account online. The other account, she wrote out 4 checks to herself forging his signature. There is also a $31k CD in there. She has been telling us she wants all of it, and that we should let her have it. My brother and I disagree. She hasn’t been very cooperative when we try to get information from her. Isn’t it illegal what she did? Isn’t it up to my brother and I to decide how to distribute everything?

Asked on July 20, 2015 under Estate Planning, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There is a word for what she did: theft. If she was not a joint account holder with your father, then to take the money after he died is to steal it, since she had no legal right to it. The estate's exector or administrator, acting for the estate, can sue her to get the money back; he actions can also be reported to the police, who may arrest her (or least issue a summons to appear in court) for her actions.

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