Intestacy testiness
December 6, 2011 8:03 AM   Subscribe

My dad died intestate, in Indiana, in 2003. My mom took all of his estate.

My dad died in Feb 2003 without a will. None of his kids- there are 5 of us- questioned the fact that Mom would take his estate since that's what I assumed happened intestate and never looked into it- it's not as if he died rich but I really have no idea how much he left behind. Since his death my mom sold their home, bought a new one sans mortgage, and has due to matters too sad and complicated to go through here, disowned two of my sisters (we're all adults, 50+, and this is insane). Anyway just today I learned that intestacy laws in Indiana give 50% to the spouse and 50% shared among surviving children. I had never heard a peep about this- and in fact my "bequest" from my dad entailed my mom allowing me to take two- TWO- books from his library.

Anyway nobody apparently ever questioned my mom's claim to 100% of my dad's estate, but now I want to, not only because it's the damn law but also because Mom wrote my sisters out of her will. But this isn't her property- not all of it- to begin with, at least not as I am understanding Indiana intestacy laws.

I know there might be some sort of statute of limitations in Indiana around intestacy but I can''t believe that everything just transferred to my mom with no process and that she really had no idea what we children were due.

So- any advice?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total)


This is very clearly something you cannot handle on your own, for multiple reasons. One, you are unfamiliar with the laws; two, it's been eight years.

A lawyer familiar with Indiana estate law will need to assist you with this. Don't assume that a lawyer in a non-Indiana jurisdiction would be able to handle it.
posted by Madamina at 8:10 AM on December 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm an attorney in Fort Wayne. I don't do trusts and estates work, but I can give you the number of someone who does. MeMail me.

Also... it's been eight years. This is going to be very difficult to challenge.
posted by valkyryn at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

The statute of limitations has almost certainly run. Even the statute of limitations for fraudulent actions, which are typically among the longest, is only six years in Indiana. Yes, you can get a lawyer. Or you can just try to let this go and live your life. What could you possibly stand to gain from a lawsuit here?
posted by MoonOrb at 8:27 AM on December 6, 2011

I am involved in something sideways similar from my dad's will - different country, different legal arrangement, same emotional crap but more money.

If you can walk away, walk away. Otherwise, talk through it with your other siblings first - if your mother is smart, she will divide and conquer by playing you against each other. Decide very firmly what you collectively want, what your limit on legal fees and the time involved by you to be, and then try to settle it without the courts first.

If you still have good relationships with your siblings, that's worth far more than anything 10% of an estate would be. Your mother is poisoning her life by her own choice. Don't let her poison yours.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:37 AM on December 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

Also, are you sure that your mother knew any differently than you? She may have made the assumption that all of you did, that as his closest living relative she was entitled to the entire estate.
posted by zug at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2011

Another option: You and two of your siblings are in the will. Assuming you're not talking about huge amounts of money, when the time comes, you can all agree to pass on the appropriate portions to the sisters who got written out.

Might still require a lawyer (especially if we're talking large amounts, you don't want to pay estate taxes and then also gift taxes), but if all of the siblings still get along, this will likely be easier than trying to change what happened 8 years ago.
posted by nat at 8:50 AM on December 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Although I am in the camp that argues that the probable best course of action here is to let it go, consultation with a lawyer would be beneficial even if all that results is enlightenment.

Here in the state of New York, someone is obligated to leave money to children ONLY if those children are minors or legal dependents (e.g., disabled adults). Otherwise the normal "default case" scenario involves the leaving of the entire estate to the spouse. If someone dies without a spouse or legal dependents, that person can leave his money to whomever or whatever he or she pleases. If your family was in New York, none of the adult 50+ children would have a claim -- but this, of course, would not necessarily preclude a lawsuit (a reality that puzzles me; our elder law attorney has repeatedly reminded me that, if the crazies are inclined to come out of the woodwork, there is nothing we can do to prevent it). So your first question to a lawyer should address your state's view on rights of inheritance with respect to spouses and adult children; if Indiana views the waterfall of inheritance like New York, it might make it easier for you and your siblings to rationalize taking the high road.

Getting back to my first point, this kind of stuff can destroy family relationships permanently. My mother's family has a long history of bad blood stemming from petty disputes arising from senses of unearned entitlement. I had hoped that the buck would stop with the parental generation, but no. As the power of attorney and designated executor (for the estates) for two of the "old people" -- my mother and her brother -- I'm right in the middle of it. Please believe me when I tell you the aggravation is not worth it.
posted by cool breeze at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2011

I have no legal expertise to shine on this question, but the experience that my mother had when one of her sisters contested aspects of their father's will would suggest that you should walk away from this if you value your sanity and the next ten years of your life.
posted by adamrice at 4:25 PM on December 6, 2011

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