If a business was never officially signed over to a sibling, does it become part of the deceased parent’s estate?

UPDATED: Sep 21, 2011

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If a business was never officially signed over to a sibling, does it become part of the deceased parent’s estate?

I was wondering if the business my father owned, if never signed over to my brother, would be split 50/50 between he and I. He thinks that he owns it but there never were any papers signed to that effect. My father’s and mother’s Will both state everything is split 50/50.

Asked on September 21, 2011 under Estate Planning, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If it is not owned by your brother, it is still part of your father's estate; as such, it would pass by will, if there is a will.

That said, it may be the case that it *does* belong to your brother, even if it was not "signed over" to him. For example, if there was an agreement that he would acquire the business if he did certain things (invested money; worked for a number of years; etc.) and he fulfilled the agreement, then even if your father, for one reason or another, failed to actually transfer it, it may be held that, pursuant to the agreement and your brother's fulfillment of his obligations, that he is in fact the owner. Therefore, will it will pass by will if not owned by your brother, your brother may be able, depending on the circumstances, to establish that it is in fact his. The presumption, in the case you describe, would be that it is not, since it was not transferred to him; but he may be able to overcome that presumption.

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