What can be done if an executor is not distributing an estate according to the deceased’s wishes?

UPDATED: May 25, 2011

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What can be done if an executor is not distributing an estate according to the deceased’s wishes?

My mother-in-law’s Will states she has a list of people whom she wants to give certain personal things to. My brother-in-law says there is no list; he was made executor 1 week before my mother-in-laws death and he is basically doing things the way he wants. He says there is no list and if there is he cannot find it. I was told about this list, as was my husband. We know it exists. We have seen it. Is there anything that can be done? There are things she wanted to go to our children (her grandchildren) but without that list we don’t know what we can do.

Asked on May 25, 2011 under Estate Planning, Missouri


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the problems that are ensuing.  The list that you are referring to is known as a Memorandum, which is a list of tangible property with the names of those that the decedent wishes to inherit them.  These memorandum are valid in about half of the states in the United States as long as they comply with the state laws (some states require that they be signed and dated, etc.).  The document does not have to be formally attached to the Will but may be found amongst other papers.  Once found it should be given deference and treated as if it were part of the Will.  Do you have a copy of the document or know where it is? Missouri allows such a document so I would take the Will and whatever you have to an attorney in your area to discuss the matter in depth.  Good luck.

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