If a beneficiary is living on a decedent’s estate and is doing whatever they want with the personal property before the Will has been probated, how do I stop this?

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If a beneficiary is living on a decedent’s estate and is doing whatever they want with the personal property before the Will has been probated, how do I stop this?

The beneficiary was the decedent’s estranged boyfriend and co-owner of the real property which he is residing in/on. The executor of estate has no knowledge of the extent of personal property and hasn’t done inventory of the estate. The executor is trying to go by an old Will and isn’t interested in the fact that the decedent was trying to write up a new one through hospice, in which many things would be changed including the executors inheritance. I am the only legal heir yet the boyfriend and executor are trying to cut me off completely are saying the will only grants me $1.00. The executor has refused to give me a copy of the Will and the decedent was my mother. What should I do?

Asked on September 5, 2018 under Estate Planning, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) If the beneficiary was the co-owner of the real estate, he has a perfectly legal right to reside there: anyone may reside in property of which he is an owner.
2) That the decedent was "trying to write up a new" will is irrelevant; only a finalized, properly signed and witnessed will has any effect. A will which was never finalized, signed and witnessed simply does not exist and has no power or effect.
3) If a new will was not signed and witnessed, the prior will remains in effect.
If you believe that the old will gave you more than the executor is telling you that you get, or that there was no valid old will at all (so you would inherit by "intestate succession"--the rules for who gets when there is no will), you could bring a lawsuit in chancery court (a part or division or country court) challenging the executor's distribution of assets. In the lawsuit, the executor would have to provide a copy of the will and show that what he is doing is in compliance with it. But the problem is, you have to bring the action before you see the will and see if you actually have grounds for it, since only in or during the lawsuit can you force the executor to divulge the will. Such a lawsuit is procedurally complex; if you want to explore and bring one, consult with a probate attorney; you are unlikely to be able to successfully bring it on your own.


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