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LegalGems
LegalGems, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10484
Experience:  Private Practice; Elder Law Attorney; Estate Planning; Attorney Mentor
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My sister listed me as beneficiary on her savings account.

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My sister listed me as beneficiary on her savings account. The bank informed me that the funds were mine and that I would not have to pay taxes on them. I've since used most of the money to pay my sister's debts (credit card, ambulance/ER costs, funeral expenses, etc.) because I know that is what she would have wanted. The amount left in the account covers what she felt I should have for managing her estate plus enough to cover ongoing expenses (house insurance, lawn maintenance, etc.).

I should add that my sister's will was hand written and did not have witness signatures and, because of that, probate court determined that there was no will. I was named as personal representative. Now, her house will be put on the market and I'm told that any money from the sale (if there is anything left after liens are addressed) will be divided between me and my two siblings. Those siblings stopped relating to my sister 20 years ago and she made it clear (verbally and in the hand written will) that I was to give all money from the sale of her belongings and house to a specific charitable organization.

So, do I need to continue to pay expenses out of the savings account or taxes on the portion she gave me for managing the estate? Is there anything I can do to make sure the money from the house goes to the organization instead of my siblings?

LegalGems :

Hi; My goal is to provide you with great service - if you have any questions during our chat, please ask! I'll do my best to ensure your satisfaction! I am sorry to hear of your recent loss. One moment please as I review the remainder of your question.

LegalGems :

What state did your sister reside in?

LegalGems :

The savings account money is separate from the rest of the estate. This money passes outside of probate directly to the named beneficiary.

LegalGems :

The money from the house would go via intestate to the siblings. However, first the expenses of the estate, including any creditor's claims, would be paid from the proceeds before distributing it to the heirs.

LegalGems :

You mention you paid many of the bills from the savings account. If you have receipts you can submit this to the probate court for reimbursement; you could then do as you wish with the money.

LegalGems :

Since there is no will, legally there would be no way to compel the other siblings to respect her wishes.

LegalGems :

If you let them know of her wishes, they may voluntarily choose to comply with them.

Customer:

My sister lived in Maine.

LegalGems :

Thank you for that. Here is the statute re: holographic wills (handwritten):


2-503. Holographic will



A will which does not comply with section 2-502 is valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. [1979, c. 540, §1 (NEW).]http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/18-A/title18-Asec2-503.html


Customer:

Re: submitting receipts to probate court...she had some belongings that she wanted me to sell and give the money to the organization. Can I sell her things and give that money to the organization? I don't need to be reimbursed for the bills I paid...she wanted me to pay them.

LegalGems :

Technically even personal belongings would go via intestate succession - to be divided among the heirs; or to be sold with the proceeds divided. If you do submit the bills and get reimbursement, you could then donate that to charity in your sister's name.

Customer:

Do I have to actually claim all of her belongings?

LegalGems :

As Personal representative if you failed to do so, and the siblings found out, they could sue you for breach of fiduciary duty, and the damages would be the value of the belongings that they should have received.

LegalGems :

Did you see the statute re: holographic wills?

Customer:

Yes..I'll check it out. Thank you.

LegalGems :

Perfect. Because it would appear that the will would be valid, and your sister's wishes would then be carried out.

Customer:

So, should I go back to probate? How do I change their decision?

LegalGems :

You would need to submit the will for probate; since they already said it was invalid you would need an attorney to prepare a Memorandum of Points and Authorities citing the relevant statute, and noting that the will was in compliance with it and is valid. The fees for the attorney can come out of the estate; but it is odd that the court would not recognize the validity of the will if it complied with the statute.

Customer:

When I went to the probate court, they said that the hand written will may not be valid because she'd used white-out on the date and changed it. I'd also, in haste, written the telephone number of her yard maintenance company on it when contacting everyone. Maybe that's why.

LegalGems :

Did the judge make that determination or a clerk?

Customer:

It was sent in to court..so a judge.

LegalGems :

So there was an actual determination that it was invalid? The reason I ask is because it sounds like they said it 'may not' be valid. So if that's the case, you can ask for an official ruling. The telephone number shouldn't matter - but the white out would be an issue. The judge would be the arbiter of that. An attorney could prepare a memorandum though arguing that it didn't affect the validity of the will - these take a few hours to prepare as they need to research the issue and compare and contrast cases and their applicability.

Customer:

Okay...thank you!

LegalGems :

You are welcome. I hope the siblings agree to respect your sister's wishes. Take care.

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