Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Georgia

My fiance passed away almost 3 years ago. We actually had lived together for 14 years at the time. We have a son together who was 10 at the time. We always meant to get married but I kept putting it off for stupid reasons. Anyway, we had always filed our taxes together and the April after his death I did the same. I filed through Turbo Tax online. I filed my fiance as head of household, as he usually did, and my son and I as dependents. We had a refund due us for $5400.00. I opened an account online with Suntrust in my name for the money to be direct deposited in to. Turbo Tax approved the filing and how I did it all. A few days later the money was in the account and I was told by a bank rep on the phone that I could use it that day. Long story short, this one asst. manager ended up putting me through hell every day for weeks. Ended up, she wouldn't let me have the money and I received a letter stating that my account had been closed and the money moved to their "safe". We were evicted because of this. Due to severe money problems since my fiancee's death, It took me 2 years to finally be able to get the Letters of Administration which is what the bank and the court told me I needed to definitely get the money. The judge knows my situation and even waived the filing fees allowing me to pay them after I got the money from Suntrust. On June 14, the Judge signed the final Order or the Letters of Admin. or whatever you call them while I waited so I could go directly to the bank, which I did. They told me the money was in a "special place" and they would have to look over the judge's order and such. The court clerk told me it was ok if they took a few days to let their legal team do that but that they would have to give me the money after that. The clerk said it should take them no more than just a few days to do that. June 14th was a Friday and on Monday, June 17th the bank's service manager from that branch called me to verify my ad dress cause she said the check was being mailed to me that very day. I checked my mail every day and when I called her back after of few days of not receiving it, she assured me it had been mailed. Thursday of that week, I called her again and she told me she had been wrong and that the check had been mailed to another bank office instead to be checked out by the people there and that it was being mailed to me the next day which would be Friday, June 21. Again, I have checked the mail every day check. I called her again this past Thursday, June 27 and she again assured me that the check had definitely been mailed to me last Friday, June 21. I asked her for some kind of tracking info and she said she would call and get it for me and call me back. After never hearing back from her before the bank closed that day, and leaving several messages, she finally called me that evening and said there was no tracking info because it was just mailed like a letter in a regular envelope through USPS and she did verify that it had definitely been mailed out to me on Friday, June 21, just as she had told me. Well, its now Saturday, June 29th and still no check. I live in Georgia and originally I was told that the Legal Team was located in Fla. No matter what, though, I know I should receive a letter type envelope through USPS within 3-4 mail days at the very longest from anywhere in the country...even California. So, please tell me what to do. They are obviously playing games like they did last time. Does the Judge's signature not mean anything? Is there anything I can do to make them honor the judge's order? The court has already sent me a bill for the money I was to pay them after getting this money from the bank because they know I should have it by now too. Please advise me on what I should do now. How can the bank get away with just blowing off legal court documents like this? Are they above the law? Thank you.

Asked on 6/29/13, 5:44 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

You have made so many mistakes that I do not know where to begin. First, there is no such thing as common law marriage so you are not legally married. Because you are not legally married, you would not be entitled to any spousal rights in regards to the probate of your domestic partner's estate.

And because you were never legally married it is impossible to legally file joint tax returns as if you were married. You may have filed but this was wrong on your part and I don't know if you are or are not entitled to any refund. You may have directed this refund from the false tax returns to your bank account but that does not mean you are legally entitled to the money if you never earned it.

If your domestic partner was deceased, you or some other person would have had to become appointed as the personal representative and the estate would need probated if there were probate assets. The personal representative would then have been tasked with filing a final tax return for your domestic partner and you would have filed your own returns as an individual.

I don't know what kind of tax return was filed and who was lawfully entitled to the money. To the extent that the money/refund was earned by the domestic partner, the funds should have been deposited into the estate account for distribution to the heirs of the estate. Because the child is a minor, then any money would either have to be held by the court or a guardian would have to be appointed as that money is for child not you.

To the extent that you earned income and would be entitled to a tax refund, then any refund would properly be paid to you and you could do with it as you wished.

The bank is not playing games with you but that money sounds like it belongs in the estate for your domestic partner or at least that is how the bank is acting. However, if your domestic partner died three years ago, this never should have been a joint return at all and you filing it is what has confused everyone at the bank since the bank thinks it should be in the estate.

I suggest that you consult with a probate attorney regarding the probate of your domestic partner's estate. If the attorney is also skilled as a tax attorney/CPA then even better. If not, then get a CPA. A proper final tax return should be filed for your domestic partner (if it can be done at this juncture) and amended individual tax returns need filed for you for the past several years. The probate attorney can probably assist with getting the bank to release the funds to the administrator of the estate. The funds then have to go into an estate account, not your personal bank account until this can all be sorted out with the tax issue unless it is clear that this never should have been estate money.

What a mess.

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Answered on 7/01/13, 8:17 pm

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