It’s not uncommon for a senior to let her adult children know about her life insurance policies. In many cases, it’s because that child or all of her children are the beneficiaries. It is also not unusual for one child to be named executor/Trustee of the parent’s estate.
The trouble arises if Mom took actions before she died and didn’t tell anyone or if she only told one child. In this case, the mother kept important documents in a safety deposit box. A brother, who lived closer to the mother, told his sister that before their mother died, she made some big decisions: she cashed out the life insurance policies, emptied the safety deposit box, sold her car and signed a reverse mortgage on the house.
Therefore, how does the sister determine if whatever's left was evenly divided? In California, if a person is appointed as executor or administrator of a probate estate, the executor/administrator must file an inventory and appraisal with the court and provide an accounting of the assets to each beneficiary. Also, if a decedent has a trust, the trustee is required to provide a copy of the trust to the decedent’s heirs at law and any beneficiary named in the trust along with a final accounting.
It will take some investigating. The good news is that there's always a paper trail.
nj.com’s recent article asks, “My mom died. How can I know I'm getting the right inheritance?” As the article explains, if the policies were cashed out by the parent, they no longer exist.
If you know the name of the insurance company and policy number, you can try to call the life insurance company’s home office to confirm this. However, they may not give out much information, if you weren’t the named beneficiary.
If Mom had a reverse mortgage, then you know she owned a home. If the home wasn’t owned jointly, then it could be a probate asset if not held in mom’s trust. One way to determine this, is to check with the county court where she died, to see if a will was probated or any estate administration application was filed. The home would need to be sold by the executor or administrator, so there would be some paperwork. If there was, you can contact the executor/administrator for more information.
With a parent’s safety deposit box, the executor/administrator/ trustee, once appointed, would have the authority to empty the contents of the box. However, if Mom previously emptied the contents, there’d be nothing for the executor/administrator/trustee to retrieve. You should check with that individual.
If you don't believe the executor is being honest with you, you may need to work with your own attorney to make sure you’re getting what you're due from Mom’s estate.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about your estate plan, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.
Reference: nj.com (February 21, 2019) “My mom died. How can I know I'm getting the right inheritance?”