When our 99-year-old mom was dying, one sister moved in and bought her stuff. The opposite put the home in her title. What can we do?


My mother died five weeks before her 100th birthday. We’re not a family of money, but mom had saved up a bit to give to her remaining children. A sister who actually had the most money moved to town while Mom was in Virginia and stayed with me for six months during the winter.

This was a plan to break into Mom’s house and take all of her possessions that should have been her own. She did it on the pretext of having Mom’s house ready so she could move in when she got home. My sister took everything to sell to antique stores because she’s an ordinary buyer. She had to file for bankruptcy at least twice.

“Mom, like many old people, stowed these things with towels, the jewelry box and dresser drawers.”

Now the lawyer is preparing to settle the estate. Another sister has pictures of Mom’s house, so many of her missing items can be seen in these pictures. She knows that we know she stole so much stuff in her absence, including cash, numerous checks, and gift cards that the family gave her for holidays and Mother’s Day.

Mama, like many old people, stowed these things away with towels, the jewelry box and dresser drawers. We’ll never know how much my sister found, but we do know about the items she removed, such as old pots, lanterns, etc. When the will is final, we have the right to call that one sister just in case Accountable for items she sold at flea markets?

She claimed it wasn’t her and that someone else must have stolen it. Not true! How shall we do it? Another sister moved into Mom’s house to look after her for the last two to three years, and the house was put in her name to look after Mom. Is there anything we can do to reclaim the house on Mom’s estate as part of the estate sale?

I know this is messy. My brother was appointed executor and really didn’t know what he was doing. As a consequence, we had to live with his mistakes. Help please.

Desperate daughter

You can email The Moneyist at qfottrell@marketwatch.com with any financial and ethical issues related to the coronavirus and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear daughter,

Decide what most deserves your time and attention – the house or the belongings – because time is of the essence. You have to make a choice: try to prove what was taken from your mother’s house or the validity of the change of ownership on the house itself.

For the former, an escrow attorney can help you track down the missing items and investigate what happened to them. This can be a time consuming and expensive process that may give you the answers or evidence you need or want.

“In general, the theft of an estate by a sibling is treated as a civil matter. That means: there is no prison time. As a victim, you have the option of filing a criminal complaint and asking the public prosecutor to prosecute your sibling, ”says RMO Probate Litigation.

It is not uncommon for an adult child to move in with a parent believing that the home should come to them because they have given up their time to care for their mother or father. They see it as a sacrifice requiring repayment, not a choice.

“Even if the elderly ‘agrees’ to change the will, inappropriateness will be found if the beneficiary uses ‘excessive conviction’ to defeat the elder’s free will to effect the change,” said the Andrew Ritholz’s law firm. “What is and is not excessive persuasion and free will will in many cases be a difficult analysis and may require factual investigation.”

You have two things in your favor: The house has not been sold to third parties and it is not yet entitled to inheritance.

Part of any investigation will include obtaining testimony, including family members, bank records, the attorney involved in transferring the deed to your sister, and medical reports of your late mother’s health before and during that time.

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• My abusive ex never contributed to our home’s mortgage. Do I still owe him half the equity if his name is on the deed?
• My brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife embezzles money from her business. How do we find hidden accounts?
• “Grandmother died recently and left a seven-figure estate. Needless to say things are getting messy ‘

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