What to do if my brother took a heirloom piece of jewelry from my dying mother’s estate without permission from all the siblings and gave it to his daughter?

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What to do if my brother took a heirloom piece of jewelry from my dying mother’s estate without permission from all the siblings and gave it to his daughter?

Both are refusing to bring it back and the piece was to be given to me and the whole family knew it because of its significance. There is no power of attorney and I want to know if my brother or his daughter can be arrested for theft or if there is any legal action that can be taken?

Asked on July 5, 2014 under Estate Planning, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you mother was alive at the time (you write that she was "dying") and she did not give him permission to take the jewlery, it would be theft. If your mother is still alive, you would effectively need her to press charges and/or sue for its return, or at least to recover its monetary value (you say no one has a POA to act on her behalf). If your mother has passed, the executor or administrator may be able press charges and/or sue to recover this jewlery, which is part of her estate and may only be distributed in accordance with her will, or, if there is no will, according to your state's rules of intestate succession. If the jewlery is valuable, it would be worth discussing this with an attorney.


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