What to do if my grandma was terminally ill so her sister and I were asked to be her personal representatives but my grandaunt has handled the estate without me?

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What to do if my grandma was terminally ill so her sister and I were asked to be her personal representatives but my grandaunt has handled the estate without me?

My grandma was terminally ill in the hospital and her sister and I were to be her personal representatives. After the death of my grandma, my great aunt would not talk to me or contact me and has dealt with the will without me. Is this legal? The will also divides the rest of my grandmas money between me, my sister and my cousin. It has been 9 months and my great aunt is yet to call or inform any of us, in which I feel like I should should have been contacted by the attorney also. Family sources have stated that she kept everything for herself. I don’t feel like this is legal.

Asked on June 15, 2014 under Estate Planning, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If your great aunt violated the terms of the will, then no, this is NOT legal. The will determines who will receive what: no family member, and not even the executor, can change what the will says in terms of distributing the assets...and that brings up another issue: unless your grand aunt was named as the executor in the will (or otherwise appointed to handle the estate by a court), she had no authority over your grandmother's estate. Only the executor named in the will or some other person appointed by the court has that authority. From what you write, your aunt may well have acted illegally; to challenge her actions, you'll need to be bring a legal action in probate (also called chancery or surrogates) court. You should speak with an attorney about the situation and brining a case, unless the amount of money at stake is so little as to not justify hiring a lawyer, in which case you may be best off letting things go.


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