Who has rights to an estate?

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Who has rights to an estate?

My grandma is 90 yrs old and not doing good at all. My father is her only child. My grandma has been living with my brother for the last month. My sister wanted to live in my grandma’s home while my grandma is with my brother. She was told she could not because she can’t be trusted (stole thousands of dollars from grandma). Apparently that didn’t sit well with her and she has contacted a lawyer to get control of the house and the rest of my grandmother’s assets. There is no will, and my grandma has said plenty of times that when she is gone everything goes to my dad. She’s lived with my grandma rent free on and off for the last 30yrs. She didn’t even pay for her own food. Legally does she have a chance in taking control of everything?

Asked on December 13, 2012 under Estate Planning, Michigan


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This is a difficult situation and ripe for abuse.  If your Grandma passed away tomorrow without a will, your sister would get nothing.  Everything would go to your father.  The risk, however, is that your sister will get your Grandma to sign a will and/or a power of attorney that gives your sister all the assets and all the rights to control your Grandma's assets.

You have several options to prevent your sister from taking advantage of your Grandma.  Does your Grandma have the ability to understand what is happening and sign a will or other documents?  If so, you and your father could have her prepare a will that carries out her wishes.  Get a lawyer to help; don't try to do this yourselves.

If your Grandma does not have the ability to understand, your brother can make sure that your sister does not ever show up with a lawyer or legal documents to sign.  If you can be sure he will do this, you don't have to take the next actions.

If you cannot be sure your sister won't try to have your Grandma sign legal documents, you need to take additional action.  You can contact the adult protective authorities (look for elder abuse authorities) and make a complaint about your sister trying to exploit your Grandma and take advantage of her.  They will investigate.  If your sister has not yet done anything, they won't prosecute her but she will know to stop it.  This will also make a record of undue influence in case your sister does something sinister.

The last action you can take is to call the police.  If your sister does something outrageous, like steal your Grandma's property or move into her house when she was told not to do that, this may be your only option.  I know it will cause a big upset in your family, but you may have to do it.

I am sorry this is happening.  Good luck.

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