Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in New York

My maternal Uncle died in 2011, having been the owner of several properties in NY, FL, CT & Puerto Rico. My Uncle was very private and did not discuss any of his business and financial dealings with family, including his eldest sister (my mother), who managed his bookstore alongside him for over 40 years. When he died, unexpectedly, we discovered a general Will, with very few details, which he'd left behind, leaving everything to my mother. We hired a Lawyer, who filed the Will w/NYC Surrogate Court but did not assist my family beyond that, as we could not afford to retain him any further. The Bookstore was affiliated w/a neighboring Church & Bible Institute, with select members, who'd been my Uncle's business "associates". These individuals had information about our Uncle's business dealings which, they never made known to my mother. One of those "associates" collected rents on my Uncle's behalf but, we never knew where the property was located. My Uncle kept all paperwork in the office of his store which, through an error in judgement, ended up in the possession of the church. I was able to salvage a small portion of paperwork but, 90% of my Uncle's information ended up in the possession of the church. Shortly after, what was a humble church, with financially challenged members (my Uncle was their biggest contributor), has been fully refurbished and the Bible Institute has purchased a sprawling property in New Jersey.

Within the paperwork I salvaged, I found a POA which had been granted to one of my Uncle's "associates" & fellow parishioners, which gave him authority to handle real estate transactions. I suspect that this POA & all of my Uncle's financial paperwork has been effective in helping this individual & the church, to rob my Mom & our family of our Uncle's estate.

Years have passed and my focus became my Mom as her health declined and she transitioned 2 years ago. What recourse, if any, do we have, at this point? How can I attempt to investigate the details of my Uncle's business dealings with very little information? Is there a search engine or public account which would be available to me, which would allow me to obtain information about the church/biblical institute's financial dealings? How can I begin to reclaim a legacy which my Uncle built with hard work & faith, when I have few details and am not financially positioned to hire a private investigator or lawyer?

Thank you for any guidance you can offer.

Asked on 12/03/19, 8:00 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Richard Bryan Richard Bryan Attorney PC

The only possible scenario I can think of is to find a pit bull of a lawyer to take this case on contingency and go after the assets. Hard. And it can't be a solo practitioner or law firm because it's going to cost money to sue people to get down to the facts. The church and the other people aren't just going to roll over. They're going to fight hard and hit back. It would take many years to figure all this out. Since 2011 did you make any effort at all to get to the bottom of this?

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Answered on 12/04/19, 2:29 pm

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