How is one of four siblings able to take complete control of all of our living mothers assets, and put it all in his name 6 months later on the day of her death?

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How is one of four siblings able to take complete control of all of our living mothers assets, and put it all in his name 6 months later on the day of her death?

Mom had a mild stroke which she quickly recovered from but while she was still hospitalized my brother took total control of her entire estate. He took her vehicles, locked her and us out of her 200 acre estate, had her phone, internet, and insurance cancelled, and began transferring all of her titles and deeds to his name. He even had her blocked from using or even viewing her own bank accounts. Yet he kept them active so her checks would continue to get deposited, then he would transfer them to his own accounts He hadn’t worked in 18 months and was trying to borrow funds to file for bankruptcy. His ex-wife filed for divorce and we loaned him gas money so he

could get to the court. It seemed that things couldn’t get much worse for him. And then my mom has a stroke and he’s living high on the hog still unemployed. She was trying to through him in jail when she passed away but somehow he gets all her assets. And he won’t tell us anything. How can we find out what documentation he has POA, final Will, Trust, etc.? And what do you recommend we do to stop him, on a low budget?

Asked on March 22, 2019 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

First, let's be clear: what he is doing is illegal--even criminal. Even if there is some legal document ostensibly giving him authority over her estate, finances, etc., such as a power of attorney or a trust containing her assets, of which he is  trustee, such document would make him a "fiduciary" for her. A fiduciary is bound by a "fiduciary duty," or a law-imposed obligation to act in the best interests of the real owner of the assets or beneficiary of the trust, loyally to her needs and interests. Taking her assets for himself is a violation of fiduciary duty at a bare minimum; it is also very likely a form of theft called (traditionally) "conversion," in which someone takes assets entrusted to them by another for the other's benefit and "converts" them to his own use.
And if he does not have legal authority over her assets, what he is doing is theft, pure and simple--and possibly (depending on how he is doing it--e.g. forging her signature?) several other crimes, too, like fraud or identity theft.
Contact your local police, since this is likely illegal/criminal. Contact the state Attorney General's office and county prosecutor--it may fall under one of their jurisdictions, too. And contact the Texas Dept. of Family Protective Services, their division or office of Adult Protective Services, which guards against the exploitation of older adults; here is a link to their website: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adult_Protection/


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