When a loved one dies, the emotional turmoil can be overwhelming. If proper steps are not taken while people are living, then the probate process can just add to the stress of dealing with their deaths. In some cases, distributing property can become so contentious that it leads to a court battle.
This is what has happened with one New York family, where questions of fraud have marred the probate process and caused a long, drawn out courtroom fight. The deceased was an 84-year-old woman, who died back in October 2010. The woman had made a fortune owning a successful chain of furniture stores.
According to her children, the woman kept most of her money in boxes in her home. After her death, her daughter was named executor of her estate. Her heirs have had nothing but problems since.
One problem was that no one could locate an original copy of her will. The only will they had was an old copy which disinherited one of her sons. This son claims that after the will was made he reconciled with his mother and she destroyed the will.
Furthermore, the woman's sons claim that she had millions of dollars hidden in boxes in her home. They claim that their sister is hiding the money from them and the court.
Due to these allegations, the woman's daughter was removed by the probate judge from her position as executor. The daughter has appealed this ruling. The estate is now left without an executor. The court has also ordered a comprehensive investigation into the finances of the woman's business to determine how much money she likely made during her life to try and determine if cash is missing.
This case may play out in the New York courts for years to come. The children have strained relationships which are not likely to get better while the litigation continues. With better estate planning, this court case and the subsequent fighting could have been avoided.
Source: Times Union, "Cash stash at root of estate dispute," Dennis Yusko, July 13, 2012