Who is in charge of a deceased persons estate before probate,

Ex-girlfriend has been living away from deceased and put him in a nurseing
home 19 months ago and never told any relatives. The uncle has had some
strokes and medical problems . Seven months ago the she called the and said
the nursing home called and someone has to get guardianship over him. Hes
not sharp enough to handle his affairs, so my husband being next of kin went to
see him and started to take care of some stuff he wanted to do. All of a sudden
the ex- girlfriend started some issues along with a Ex- step granddaughter that I
spoke to about home care for him. Since 7 months ago we have been cut out
of any information including not being told he died. Now I found out his ex-
girlfriend is trying to sell off his assets. Is there anything we can do to stop this.

Asked on March 20, 2017 under Estate Planning, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The police wil likely consider this a civil matter--i.e. not something for them. The way to address this is to sue her: as blood relatives, you would very possibly inherit from your uncle, either if he had a will (which would very possibly name you) or, if he had no will, under "intestate succession"--the rules for who gets what when there is no will. The fact that you are reasonably likely to inherit makes you an interested party and gives you "standing"--the right to take legal action.
Girlfriends and ex-girlfriends, however, have no legal right to property unless there is a valid will leaving it to them--they do not inherit when there is no will. 
You can bring a lawsuit in chancery court (a part or division of county court) seeking a court order barring her from taking or selling any of his assets until the estate is fully resolved (at which point, only if she did inherit under a valid will would she get anything); requiring her to return or repay anything she has taken; and appointing a personal representative (e.g. an executor if there is a will; or a court-appointed administrator if not) to take control of the estate during the probate process.
This lawsuit can be brought on an "emergent" (think: "urgent" or "emergency") basis to get into court faster and get that order maintaining the status quo (i.e. that she can't sell anything) in the meantime. You would be legally allowed to represent yourself, and should be able to get instructions and/or sample forms from the court clerk (also check online, to see if they have instructions and forms on the court's website), but it is a procedurally complex thing to do--this kind of action in chancery court on an emergent basis is much more complicated than, say, suing in small claims court. You are strongly encouraged to retain a probate attorney to help you.


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