Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in New York


I have a situation and I was wondering what my next step would be.

My father passed on April 30th of this year. I have a sister (from my mother of course) and a half sister from his other wife. All of his childern were estrainged from him at various points in his life, so we are SURE he had no favorites. The problem is, he said on his will that he wanted his childern to divide his asstes as they agree upon or if they can't agree, the executor was to decide which was fine. The problem comes in ..... he only put our half sister on his pension from his job he worked at for 38 years. He also made her executor because she had previous experience doing it when her mother passed. My full blooded sister and I had no problem with that, thought she was trust worthy and agreed she could. We also know as I said before, he had no favorites, treated us all the same and do not believe he intended to have her get ALL of his pension. We feel that he just figured that the will would trump the name on the pension OR he forgot how many names he put on (or left off) the pension, again thinking that the will would take care of it all. I have Lawyer friend (Corporate, not familiar with estate law in depth) who said that it is an not uncommon oversight that people put a name on a pension fund as beneficiary years in the past, not thinking about the future (will, estate settlement etc) and forget about it or just assume the will would cover everything. She is getting all of his 38 year pension fund sent to her from the bank where it was held.

The other problem also lies in the fact that the will says we were supposed to agree on how to split his assets but the half sister has sold of his car, taken back his security deposit for his apt. and who knows what else, kept the money and is not communicating with us about any of the estate assets. We still have no idea what is going on or what still is in his estate.

Again, my sister and I are SURE he didn't do this on purpose. BOTH my sister and half sister lived near him and took care of him (I live too far away) for the months of his last days. Oh by the way, we are not diluded or money hungry, we just want an outome that is more fair.

Is there ANYTHING we can do in this instance?

Asked on 10/17/11, 6:31 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Susan Accetta Stern Keiser & Panken, LLP

Unless you could prove undue influence on the part of your half sister, there is nothing you can do about your father's pension passing to her. The attorney that drafted your father's Will should've questioned your father as to whether he had designated a beneficiary of such account and aided him in changing it, if this was your father's intent.

As executor of your father's estate, your half sister has a fiduciary duty to sell the car, take back the security deposit for his apartment etc. Although it would be ideal for your sister to keep you apprised every step of the way, prior to the distribution of the estate to you and your siblings, your half sister will have to "account" for her actions as executor e.g. she will have to give you a report (either informally, if you are satisfied with her report, or through the Court) of all of the assets she collected and expenses she paid.

Read more
Answered on 10/18/11, 7:38 am

Related Questions & Answers

More Probate, Trusts, Wills & Estates questions and answers in New York