A client’s father died several months ago. He and his brother are listed as executors of the Last Will. The brother has no interest in following the will, which says to split everything equally. The brother has knowingly taken all of the valuables out of the house, like for example, furniture, jewelry, fishing poles, etc. There is no way to really prove anything about the existence and the value of the personalty. The house/property was put in each sibling’s name years ago and the parents retained a “life estate.” Now the brother wants to let his son live in the property. The other sibling wants to sell it and split the proceeds. How should this be handled?

My response is straightforward. “Your brother had no right to take the personal property in the house. Based on his actions and the break down in communications you can go to court and ask that you be appointed as the sole executor of your father’s estate.” But, as I caution all prospective clients, before taking such action, figure out the value of the estate assets in the father’s estate, then divide if the value of the estate is worth the cost of the stress of litigation?

As relates to the house upon Dad’s death, it now belongs to both siblings equally. Either sibling can force the sale of the house through what is called “a partition action”. Again, this can be divisive and expensive, but probably less expensive and more straightforward than a fight over your father’s estate. Before bringing an action in court it’s at least worth seeing if your brother will agree to meet with a mediator. Oh, and the brother’s son… he can’t live there without my client’s consent and must pay fair rental value.

To discuss your NJ probate estate litigation matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.