When a married woman dies intestate does all personal belongings go to the husband or the mother?

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When a married woman dies intestate does all personal belongings go to the husband or the mother?

A woman dies tragically at 28. She kept all birth certificates, social security cards, etc. on her person in her wallet. The mother of the deceased took the wallet and is using the documents to commit fraud on taxes, ask for social security money, etc. The mother also took the ashes and buried her under a headstone with her maiden name. What needs to be done to take back the documents and ashes, and protect the husband and children from the mother?

Asked on February 2, 2011 under Estate Planning, Colorado

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss here. When a person dies intestate the Intestacy laws of the state in which she resided will determine who her beneficiaries are. Now, all property held jointly should go to the husband automatically if held with "rights of survivorship." So that property - houses, joint bank accounts, etc., - is his outright and does not go through probate.  Other assets that have beneficairy designations - such as life insurance policies - pass to the beneficiary automatically. If the policy does not have a beneficiary listed then it will probably be made payable to "the estate."  Now, the other asstes that do not pass automatically as indicated above are divided according to the statute. Generally speaking, once a person has children then the rights of their parents to inherit are cut off, and estates are divided between the spouse and the children in various percentages.  What her husband needs to do is to get an attorney and apply to become the Personal Representative of his wife's estate.  Once he is appointed then he needs to bring an action against the Mother and advise all agencies, etc., from whom she has collected of the action.  Although one can not condone the acts of the Mother remember tht she too is grieveing for the loss of her child.  Good luck to you.


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