What can be done if a wife changed her husband’s Will by transferring property to her name only and made a new Trust.

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What can be done if a wife changed her husband’s Will by transferring property to her name only and made a new Trust.

My father-in law passed away 5 years ago. He had made a Will putting his deceased son’s family in it. I was included as his daughter-in-law and he took all of our Social Security numbers and birthdates to his lawyer to draw up the Will. His current wife was to continue to live in the property until her death. She passed 2 months ago. Now, her children have taken over and will not correspond with us. My husband and I have 3 children; our daughter was born with Down’s Syndrome. As my husband was dying, he asked his dad to make sure that his family was taken care of. I witnessed this oral promise. And his dad while, he was living, sent my daughter money for occasions. It wasn’t until her birthday passed and we hadn’t heard from his wife, that I found out on my own she died. I don’t know what recourse to take. Can you advise me?

Asked on August 8, 2018 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

We assume that the wife transferred the property after your father-in-law died (even though you don't state that in so many words) and will answer on that basis.
1) First, the oral promise you refer to is irrelevant; oral promises about what will be done with money or property after someone passes away are not enforceable. Only properly signed and witnessed written wills are enforceable or control what happens. So the oral promise has no effect here.
2) That the father-in-law sent money to your daughter is also irrelevant and has no bearing on what happens after he died.
3) IF the wife did not follow the terms of the father-in-law's will, you may be able to bring a legal action to enforce the terms of the will, but whether you can will depend on many factors, including whether his will went through probate. If you think she took or hid or transferred assets or money that the will--and again, only the will, not any oral promises--left to others, meet with a probate lawyer to evaluate the situation and your options.
4) But if the wife was left everything by the will, then she could ignore the oral promise and do anything she wanted with the money or assets.


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