Legal advice for screwed beneficiary
March 17, 2008 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Estate disbursement question -- screwed?

Long story short.

My mother's sister died in 2005. She had an IRA. Her death, followed by other events, left my mother and her surviving sister not on speaking terms.

This sister is the executor of the will.

Deceased sister had an IRA account. It has been discovered that the surviving sister's lawyer put the IRA funds in to my Mother's name, and then withdrew the money. Thus sticking my Mother with the taxes on a sum she did not in fact receive.

I realize that a lawyer has to be brought in to this, we are working on that now, but I'm wondering if any MeFiers might have some tips, ideas, anything as to what our recourse could be.

Everywhere we go -- the bank to try to find out who withdrew the funds/how/etc, essentially says that only the executor of the will can receive this information.

Are we screwed?
How did this happen? Is it legal?
How can this all have happened when the estate is supposedly not yet settled?

Thanks to anyone who might have some insight, I/we really appreciate it.
posted by aleahey to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: State and/or country would be helpful information, though any US lawyer's advice is likely to be "consult a lawyer" (because of the ethics rules) and any nonlawyer's advice should be confirmed by a lawyer.

For what it's worth, I'm sorry I can't be of more help. I have nothing but the greatest sympathy for families in this situation.
posted by socratic at 5:19 PM on March 17, 2008

The lawyer did this? Contact the state bar. It sounds like fraud or abetting fraud.
posted by dhartung at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks man, the state is NJ. County, US.
posted by aleahey at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2008

Do you have any idea whether your mother's sister's lawyer knows about your mother? Could it be that your mother's sister has led her lawyer to believe that your mother is no longer alive? I ask because what you describe seems so blatantly illegal, yet easily traceable, that it makes me wonder whether there is something we don't know about the situation.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 5:46 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: He most definitely knows she is still alive.
posted by aleahey at 5:53 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: IAAL but IANYL and TINLA.

It's unfortunate that your family isn't on speaking terms. My gut is that you shouldn't jump to presume malice until you hear their side of things (or otherwise get a better understanding of what's going on).

That said, when talking with your lawyer (which you really need to do), you should keep in mind how IRAs work. You don't "put funds into [someone's] name" in an IRA. The IRA has beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries. Your lawyer will likely need to figure out who was the original beneficiary of the IRA, and where your mother fit into that picture.

It's possible that there was no beneficiary, in which case the decedent's estate may "become" the beneficiary. If that's the case, then your lawyer probably will have to figure out what the status of the estate is.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 6:54 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Could there be identity fraud involved? If the beneficiary of deceased sister's estate was your mother, and the money was disbursed to her, could surviving sister have intercepted it or pretended to be your mother and received the money that way? (Sorry to imply such horrible things about your aunt/surviving sister's character, but stranger things have happened. Plus, I watch too much Law & Order.)

In any case, get a lawyer.
posted by bedhead at 7:28 PM on March 17, 2008

How can a lawyer put something into somebodys name without that persons signature? That IS FRAUD and I would contact a lawyer and the state bar.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:32 AM on March 18, 2008

How can a lawyer put something into somebodys name without that persons signature? That IS FRAUD and I would contact a lawyer and the state bar.

I think the withdrawing of the funds afterward is really the fraudulent part.
posted by oaf at 8:21 PM on March 18, 2008

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