When a sibling tasked with estate administration hides assets

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

Losing a parent or other close family member has a way of triggering intense disputes among those who are grieving that person’s passing. The death of a parent, for example, could do serious damage to the relationships among their surviving children.

If one child of the deceased lives closer to them than other family members or previously filled a caregiving role, they might assume control over probate matters without discussing the issue with their loved ones first. That sibling might then insist that there are no resources in the estate to distribute among family members.

The other people with an interest in the estate may question that assertion and may even believe it is an indicator of fraud. Can one family member unilaterally make choices that affect the inheritance rights of others and keep an estate out of probate court accordingly?

The law, not personal wishes, determines probate requirements

Family members with an interest in the estate or even creditors can potentially take steps to involve the probate courts due to what might be misconduct. They can also request the initiation of probate proceedings and the appointment of a personal representation to administer the estate.

Many estates require standard probate proceedings and court oversight. Small estate proceedings can be an option if the estate doesn’t include real estate and has a total value of less than $50,000. Even then, the courts generally require an accounting of someone’s circumstances at the time of their death. That means providing a comprehensive inventory of assets and debts to the courts.

Someone cannot simply claim that the testator passed without resources. They have to go over financial records and personal holdings to validate that assumption. Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary for the estate to undergo formal probate proceedings. Family members embroiled in a dispute about the necessity of probate proceedings or the distribution of property after someone’s passing may need help to navigate that conflict.

In some cases, litigation may be necessary to hold someone financially responsible for the misappropriation of estate resources for personal financial gain. It can be difficult to remain neutral when handling a complicated estate issue, as emotions often run high when dealing with someone’s final legacy. As such, learning more about New York probate and state laws may help people understand what to expect during estate administration and seeking legal guidance can potentially help individuals to more effectively safeguard their rights and a loved one’s legacy.