What can be done if family members wrongfully remove the personal effects of a deceased?

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What can be done if family members wrongfully remove the personal effects of a deceased?

A woman and her husband had been married for 27 years and had one daughter together. He passed away of a heart attack about a month ago. The man’s mother and sister came to visit and stayed in the house the husband and wife shared. The wife gave the mother and sister access to all of the husband stuff to look though. While the wife was at work, the mother and sister removed all of the husband’s personal affects and shipped them out of state and placed the rest of the items in a storage unit. Once the woman had discovered what they had done, she requested a list of items be returned and also requested to have access to the storage unit. They have not complied with her request. What are her legal options get her in-laws to comply?

Asked on December 11, 2014 under Estate Planning, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If the assets have not yet been legally distributed (probated), then the estate, by its administrator or executor, can file a lawsuit against the family members for the return of the objects; the lawsuit would essentially allege theft (unauthorized taking of another's--in this case, the estate's) belongings. In the lawsuit, the estate could seek either or some combination of the return of the specific belongings or their economic value. If the assets had been distributed, then whichever person would have received those belongings--presumably the wife--could personally sue those family members in the same way.


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