What to do if I was cheated out of my inheritance?

My grandfather passed away 2 years ago while I was still a minor (16 years old). He left a Will stating who he left all of his assets to (most were to me; approximately 20K in savings account as well as his home and vehicles; small amounts to my mother). My grandfather named my stepfather, who is of no relation to me or my family, as the executor of his estate. My stepfather and mother (now divorced) spent all of his remaining money and assets and denied me copies of the Will. I am 18 now and stepdad has filed bankruptcy. What do I do?

Asked on October 26, 2011 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You sue--that's what you do. An executor may not take the money from the estate, spent it on him/herself, etc.; the executor is bound to distribute the money as per the will, subject only to paying first just debts of the estate (whether debts of the decedent or debts incurred post-mortem, such as funeral expenses)--which debts could possibly take up the money in the estate.

However again, other than paying just debts, the executor must pay out the money and other assets as per the will; if he does not, he may be sued for the money he misappropriated. (He also possibly committed a crime--a form of theft--as welll.)

You should consult with a trusts and estates attorney to consider your options, rights, and recourse. Good luck.


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