What happens if the request in a will is not followed?

After my mother-in-law died, her son and daughter split up everything in the house and sold what they didn’t want, saying that she had told them, before she died that everything was to be given to her daughter .. My husband was not notified until this was done. The will says all her personal belongings were to be divided equally among the three of them. There is not enough money to pay all of her bills. My husband is executor of the will. What should be do?

Asked on May 31, 2009 under Estate Planning, Minnesota


B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

He needs to discuss this in some detail with an attorney, to be retained for and paid from the estate.  There may well be something that your husband can do about what was done, because it sounds quite wrong to me.  One place to find a lawyer is http://goallineblitz.com/game/player.pl?player_id=947160

In most states, an oral directive, such as the one your late mother-in-law supposedly gave to the daughter and other son, has no legal effect, particularly where there is a valid written will.  It may well be possible to get some repayment to the estate for what was taken, although establishing what was taken, and the value, may be a problem.

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