Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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My condolences on the loss of your sister and I am sorry you are dealing with this situation. A first step would be to contact the surrogate in the county in which your sister resided and had property to determine if a probate was opened to administer her estate. Here is a list of the complete 21 county Surrogates and contact information: www.judiciary.state.nj.us/directory/surrogateroster.pdf. Some of the counties maintain these records and they may be accessed on line.
If a probate was opened, you can obtain a copy of the documents submitted to probate to determine if you have any legal rights to the estate of your sister. If you are a named beneficiary and the executors have not provided you with accountings and information, you may petition the Surrogate to force an accounting. If the executors are not acting in good faith and not administering the estate properly, a petition for their removal is also possible.
Unfortunately, if you were not named as a beneficiary of her estate or are not entitled to a portion of her estate if she did not create a will, you would not be entitled to accountings or status reports.
If a probate was not opened and you believe you were named as beneficiary of her estate, you would need to petition the Surrogate to open a probate. This would require the assistance of a lawyer in the County in which your sister resided.
You may also wish to retain a local attorney to write a letter to the executors requesting a status update and report. Sometimes, folks will respond to a persuasive letter written by a lawyer to avoid further complications and potential liability down the road. Here is a link to the New Jersey State Bar Association Lawyer Referral information that provides contact information for various counties that can assist with putting you in contact with a local probate attorney to assist with persuading your brother and nephew to contact you regarding the status of your sister's estate: www.njsba.com/for-the-public/lawyer-referral-service.html
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