What are my rights if an estate has been depleted due to accounts being left in trust for another person?

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What are my rights if an estate has been depleted due to accounts being left in trust for another person?

My elderly aunt passed away in Florida. My aunt’s sister started caring for her husband and took over his mail, bills, etc. My uncle has passed away and I am an heir to his estate (along with others). We have come to find out that during the period between the death of my aunt and the death of my uncle less than one year all of his bank accounts were left in her name leaving the estate somewhat depleted. The banking account records were removed from the home (by her) along with other items. Since these accounts aren’t part of the will I’m not sure if there’s any recourse.

Asked on June 24, 2009 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

There are certain assets in New York that are not considered part of the estate.  They are called

 “non-probate assets”  and do not go through probate.  These include:

  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Florida also has non-probate assets stated as assets with named beneficiaries, and are not subject to commissions. Assets that can be handled without assistance (probate) include pension accounts, life insurance, CD accounts, annuities and money market accounts. It is important to review all State laws beforehand to avoid any problems upon division of estate.

Part of your question is unclear: who were the accounts left in trust for?  Was it your Aunt to care for your Uncle?  There is a Will here.  If you believe that the money and other assets were improperly used and depleted, the Will should be admitted to Probate as soon as possible and an Executor appointed.  The Executor will have the power to inquire as to the assets and take the necessary recourse.  You may need to open an estate proceeding in Florida as well for recourse as to those assets.  Look for an attorney here (one may be admitted in New York and Florida) att attorneypages.com. Good luck.


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