An uncle passed in July 2012, and my brother falsely indicated to the Registry of Wills in Philadelphia, PA (I am in VA) that he was the "sole heir" to any entitlements that we were both entitled to receive, as this uncle had no children of his own or siblings. The two "short certificates" (legal term?) on file at he Registry of Wills are not specific...the employee there could only presume they pertained to some sort of financial gain. How can I determine what these two short certificates pertain to and further how to pursue this matter legally?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Depending on when your brother filed a petition for appointment as Executor or administrator (known as the Personal Representative) of your uncle's estate, and whether or not he give you written notice that he did so, you may challenge his appointment based on his false statement that he is the sole heir and/or his failure to give you notice
A short certificate merely indicates that he has been appointed as Personal Representative. Of course, he may also be claiming the sole right to your uncle's estate.
All debts of an estate must be paid before any assets are distributed to heirs.
Siblings are not the only heirs if a person died without children. You didn't mention if there was a Will or not.
You should consult with an estates attorney in the county where your uncle resided.
THIS RESPONSE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, SINCE I DO NOT HAVE ALL OF THE INFORMATION THAT WOULD BE REQUIRED, AND I DO NOT HAVE A REPRESENTATION AGREEMENT WITH YOU.
* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.
* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.
I agree with Attorney Jacobson. If I were you, I would not just be looking at the short certificate because that tells you nothing. You are going to have to consult a probate attorney who practices in the county/state where the uncle's estate is pending.
You need to pay the attorney to review the complete estate file to date - this would include the will, if any, the petition for letters testamentary (if there is a will) or letters of administration, an inventory of assets and any accounting. The file should also contain a notice that was sent to creditors and heirs. If this was not done, then a petition can be filed not only challenging your brother's appointment but seeking his removal.
If there is a will, then you also need to see what it says. If the uncle's will left all to your brother, then he would be the sole heir/beneficiary of the probate assets. However, wills can be challenged in a process called a will caveat if you suspect that your brother induced or influenced your uncle.
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