My sister has taken valuables from my mother and I was supposed to receive some of them. What can we do?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 19, 2016
Zackcarr asked...

My mother lived in assisted living apartment. My sister and her husband went in an took some valuable items from my mother while there. Now she is in a nursing home and mother does not want to say anything that will cause a conflict in this stage of her life. My sister also has all of mother's diamonds and the only key to bank lock box. When mother passes what should I do about receiving my part. She has not given anyone power of attorney


Expert Answers

Legally, what happens to your mother's property at her death depends on whether she left a will or not. If you mother has a will, that will should state what happens to her property"”who inherits what. If you mother did not leave a will, what happens to her property would be determined under the "intestacy" law of her state. ["Intestate' means dying without a will.] Normally, state intestate laws provide that the deceased person's property is divided equally between the closest family members. Here that seems to be you and your sister.

If possible, you should make be sure that your mother has a will. Without one, you may find it hard to receive "my part," or know what that part is.

If she chose to, your mother could disinherit you, or your sister (or even both of you). But legally she can only disinherit a child by expressly stating that in her will. It seems highly unlikely that she did that.

The difficult problem you might face is how to determine what property you mother owned at her death. As long as she remans alive and mentally competent, your mother has the right to give away any of her property. Whatever her intention in allowing your sister to take diamonds and other property from her, your sister could claim, after your mother's death, that the property was a gift. Also, if your sister has the only key to a bank lockbox, she might be able to remove all property in the box, and you wouldn't know what was taken. Unfortunately, it is often true that "possession is nine-tenths of the law," especially if the original property owner hasn't made it clear what property she owns, and who she wants it left to.