Our friend passed away yesterday. We have her house and car keys. She failed to have a will drawn up. Her two sons are estranged and we have no idea where they are. Her brother lives in a nursing home. He has two children in Michigan that would like to take over. Who do we give the keys to?
3 Answers from Attorneys
Your best bet is to hang on to those for a while, while attempting to contact her family. Once the family gets involved, it is likely that one of them will petition to the court to become the personal representative of the estate of the decedent (the court apponted representative with full powers to manage the estate) and that would be the person to ultimately give the keys to.
Hang on to the keys. The lawful heirs are her sons. If you give to someone else and they go in - well we know what happens here. I am sure that her sons will show up. She had to have an address and/or telephone number for them in an address book or computer. However, if you really can not locate them, I suggest you file for probate as the personal representative. You can be reimbursed for your expenses out of her checking and savings accounts and can at least get her insurance policy so that she can be buried. Just so you know, without a will, the only person who can be a personal representative is one who is a resident of the state of Florida. The two in Michigan would not be entitled to do so.
If I can be of assistance, please contact my office for an appoint.ment.
Since the brother is alive, then his non Florida children can serve as the Personal Representative of the estate under Florida Law at FS 733.304(3). However they could seek appointment as "capable" persons subject to them making a diligent search to meet the priorty that our law sets out for the decedent's two sons to serve in that role under FS 733.301(1)(b)2. That section sets out that the person selected by the majority in interest of the (intestate) heirs would be appointed if he/she accepts.
The counsel given above to retain the keys and vehicle are good advice and you may wish to remove the plates in the meantime in case it is stolen during the interim, and definitely do no drive it!