How does probate work when a consumable or quickly depreciating asset is involved?
November 19, 2010 6:43 PM   Subscribe

A relative of my husband's recently passed away, leaving him a car, among other things, in her will. The property is in the possession of a difficult and controlling aunt. What is this process like?

The car is in Idaho, we are not. It is currently in the possession of, and being "cared for" by this aunt, who is difficult and irritating at best. She is also handling the probate proceedings, to the best of our knowledge. So, how does this probate process go? We already know that Aunt is going to make it as hard as she possibly can (she told my husband that getting a replacement title would take "months and months" and informed him that we would have to pay sales tax in ID, both statements were easily proved false with a little googling).

Taking possession of the car before it is totally destroyed would be nice, but we don't know what my husband's rights are in this situation. How does this primary process work? What should we expect? What happens if the car is in a significantly different state than we know it to have been before aunt took possession of it?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If she is taking care of the estate, she has some latitude as to how it is handled and the time frame. If the car is worth anything at all, i would pay an attorney a couple of hundred bucks to write a letter stating that he is representing you in this matter and ask her what her intentions are.
posted by HuronBob at 6:47 PM on November 19, 2010

How valuable is the car? If it has a reasonable amount of value, you should call a probate lawyer. A probate lawyer should be able to tell you your rights more accurately and helpfully than the hive mind; more important, even if you know your legal rights, you might need help enforcing them. Also, ask the lawyer if it's worth retaining counsel, because it may not be -- litigation can sometimes lead to exhausting the estate's assets, and then no one gets anything.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:20 PM on November 19, 2010

It sounds like she is using the car and doesn't want to lose it. You could offer to sell it to her and not have to be bothered with her and picking up the car.
posted by lee at 7:23 PM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sounds to me like the aunt wants or thought she was going to get the car. She'll get screwed if she messes around with probate, but maybe the best thing for all concerned is just to wait it out. Consumable? Quickly depreciating? I'm guessing that maybe the car is relatively new, rather than a collector's item. Doubtful that she would be able to up and steal a bequest, but IANAanythingrelevant.
posted by rhizome at 7:25 PM on November 19, 2010

The person named as executor of the will usually has a great deal of leeway, as I understand it.

This is just from Mr Sunny's side of the family. In one case. the executor handled a complicated estate, took a very long time doing so, and because of bad blood and some poor executive decisions, spent a great deal of the estate money on lawsuits.
In the second case, the assets were fairly easy to handle, and everyone went out of their way to be nice about it. The executor kept it as simple and civil as possible, with cooperation. The car in this estate was given to one of the heirs immediately to drive around, while all the other paperwork on the remaining loan was dealt with by the lawyer. The heir was able to keep the car, but it was a bit tricky due to the loan.

This is just a round-about way of saying you need to tread carefully, document any transactions, and try to be as nice as possible (while still trying to protect yourself) Transferring title on anything in an estate is tricky, and requires a HUGE amount of patience, plus more death certificate copies than you would believe.
posted by annsunny at 7:27 PM on November 19, 2010

I was left some jewelry in my aunt's will. However, the executor simply "could not find the jewelry". There was nothing I could do about it. It may be harder to "lose" an entire car....but since you are several states away I imagine it is best to follow annsunny's idea to "be nice". Do you know what kind of car it is?
posted by naplesyellow at 11:47 PM on November 19, 2010

lee makes an excellent suggestion. Determine the car's value. Ask yourselves if that's worth expending the time/effort. Is there something else in the estate that has been left to the aunt of equivalent value? Perhaps a trade along those lines might be an option to consider.

But barring that I'd suggest you line up the total costs and lay them all out for the aunt. Thank her for the effort she's putting into handling the estate. Make it clear how you expect things to proceed. Be polite but firm. If she's unwilling to accept your position then seek counsel with an attorney local to the estate. You'll bear the cost of that counsel, so consider that against the value of the car.

There's also the possibility of forcing her out as the executor. She has a legal obligation to the estate to handle it appropriately. If she's not doing that then the local courts have ways to remove her as executor. Local counsel would help you determine how readily that could be accomplished.
posted by wkearney99 at 8:08 AM on November 20, 2010

If you do decide that getting the car will be more trouble than it's worth, you can disclaim (refuse) the bequest, provided you live in a state where it's permitted. [My accountant told me about this recently, because I want my portion of an inheritance to go to my siblings.] According to this site, in order to have no tax liability:

•Your refusal must be irrevocable and unqualified.
•The refusal must be in writing and signed.
•The disclaimer must be received by the decedent's personal representative no later than nine months from the date of the decedent's death.
•You must disclaim before receiving any benefit or interest in the bequest.
•The disclaimed bequest must pass to the next recipient without any direction from you.
•The disclaimer must be valid under state law. Check with your state to determine the requirements for a valid disclaimer.

To find out more, google "disclaim a bequest."
posted by wryly at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2010

« Older House Full Of Garbage   |   Higher ed marketing makes me roll my eyes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.