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  1. #1
    Adult Daughter is offline Junior Member
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    Question Dad died no will, stepmom took everthing

    What is the name of your state? Indiana

    My parents were married for 30 years before my mother died. A few years before my father died he remarried. He did not have a pre-nup and did not leave a will. We were all with him when he died in his home (my sister and I, his only two children, both live out of his state). As soon as he had died, the new wife kicked my sister and me out of the house. We later left her messages to discuss the disposition of the property, but she has not responded and has now disconnected the home phone and cell phone. Question: what right, if any, do we, the adult children, have to the personal property that was owned by my parents prior to the second marriage? Has anyone had a similar experience? If this requires a lawsuit, does anyone have any thoughts on how expensive it will be? The handful items we are interested in are not necessarily of a high dollar value, but carry a lot of sentimental value. We have offered in writing to pay for value of the items, but she has not responded. Help!
  2. #2
    anteater is offline Senior Member
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    Yes, you and sister have a right to a share of your father's probate estate, as below for Indiana. Keep in mind, however, that this would cover only assets owned solely by your father. Assets owned jointly with right of survivorship with stepmother or with beneficiary designations would not be part of the probate estate.

    If stepmother is playing hide-and-seek, about your only option would be to petition the court to open estate administration and be appointed as personal representative. If all you are interested in is sentimental items, perhaps the threat of that and a look at the intestate succession provisions will prompt stepmom to be more agreeable.

    If any part of an Indiana decedent's estate is not effectively disposed of by will, the intestate share will be distributed in the following order and manner:

    1. Surviving spouse. A surviving spouse is generally first in line to get any assets from the intestate estate. However, the amount a surviving spouse is entitled to varies as follows:

    A surviving spouse is entitled to the entire intestate estate if the decedent is not survived by issue or a parent.
    If the decedent is survived by at least one child or by the issue of at least one deceased child, the surviving spouse is entitled to one-half of the net intestate estate.
    If the decedent is survived by no issue, but the decedent is survived by at least one parent, the surviving spouse's share is three-quarters of the net intestate estate.

    Under a special provision, if the surviving spouse is a second or other subsequent spouse who did not at any time have children by the decedent, and the decedent left surviving him a child or children or the descendants of a child or children by a previous spouse, such surviving second or subsequent childless spouse gets only a life estate in one-third of the lands of the deceased spouse. At the time of decedent's death, full ownership (in fee) of such lands vests at once in decedent's child or children, or the descendants of such as may be dead (subject only to the life estate of the surviving spouse). The second or subsequent childless spouse does, however, receive the same share of decedent's personal property as outlined above for surviving spouses generally.....

    Copyright 2002 - 2008, CCH Incorporated, a Wolters Kluwer business. All Rights Reserved.
  3. #3
    curb1 is offline Senior Member
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    Adult Daughter,
    I am curious why you and sister did nothing about this until after he died? This happens all the time. Your mother would be very disappointed in how things progressed. Much of what she had will go to step-mothers family. I am not asking this question to be difficult, but I see this happen so much. Children don't help their parents with these situations until it is too late. Things can get extremely complicated after death.
  4. #4
    Adult Daughter is offline Junior Member
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    Reponse

    Curb1...many thanks for your question. Couldn't agree with you more that this should have been taken care of earlier. The issue of a will was something we brought up several times with my father...he would always state that he would get around to it. In addition, each time we brought it up, our stepmother would indicate to our father that this was a sign of being greedy, and that he should know enough to trust her and not worry about a will. In the name of familial harmony, we stopped pushing the issue. In addition, his entire extended family begged him to get a pre-nup, but the stepmother refused to discuss it. Yes, I believe my mother would have been horrified at what happened....
  5. #5
    nextwife is offline Senior Member
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    If dad had co-mingled all his assets and co-titled them, and put the house in jt Tenancy, the will may have been irrelevant.

    Truly, it was up to dad to make sure that whatever he wished you to inherit was kept seperately titled and that he made sure via will that it would legally pass to you.
  6. #6
    Adult Daughter is offline Junior Member
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    Follow Up Question - contacted by stepmom's lawyer

    Many thanks to everyone for their insights. Anteater... thanks for the legal citation information. Follow up question - I have now received a letter from her lawyer indicating that my father's estate was worth less than $25K and under Indiana's spousal provision law, my stepmother is entitled to an allowance of $25K from the estate. He has said that because of this provision and the worth of the estate, she is entitled to everything in my father's estate and I should stop attempting to contact her. I have found the legal information on in.gov., but am somewhat confused. This seems to conflict with the intestate law and provision for the division of assets. Can anyone offer any insight?

    Thanks all!
  7. #7
    anteater is offline Senior Member
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    When you mentioned "his home", I assumed that the estate value would be somewhat larger. Indiana does have a spousal allowance:

    IC 29-1-4-1
    Surviving spouse and family allowances
    Sec. 1. The surviving spouse of a decedent who was domiciled in Indiana at his death is entitled from the estate to an allowance of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). The allowance may be claimed against the personal property of the estate or a residence that is a part of the decedent's estate, or a combination of both. If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent's children who are under eighteen (18) years of age at the time of the decedent's death are entitled to the same allowance to be divided equally among them. If the personal property and a residence that is a part of the decedent's estate are less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) in value, the spouse or decedent's children who are under eighteen (18) years of age at the time of the decedent's death, as the case may be, are entitled to any real estate of the estate to the extent necessary to make up the difference between the value of the personal property plus the residence that is a part of the decedent's estate and twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). The amount of that difference is a lien on the remaining real estate. An allowance under this section is not chargeable against the distributive shares of either the surviving spouse or the children.
  8. #8
    Adult Daughter is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks anteater. My father purchased it with the proceeds of the sale of my parents home, but had both his name and my stepmothers name as owners (I believe). I am assuming that this will then automatically be passed to her and not be part of the probate estate.
  9. #9
    curb1 is offline Senior Member
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    Adult Daughter,
    It will be easy, and important, to see how house was titled. County courthouse should be able to tell you in a couple of minutes.
  10. #10
    mytwogirls is offline Junior Member
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    I agree, you can go to the counthouse to see how the house was titled. My sibling and I also have a step-mother and we feel your pain. We had to hire an Attorney, and our father had a Will and Trust. If your step-mother would not sign a pre-nup, then I would think his whole estate is worth more than $25,000. Especially if they had a house together.
  11. #11
    msbarajas is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adult Daughter View Post
    Many thanks to everyone for their insights. Anteater... thanks for the legal citation information. Follow up question - I have now received a letter from her lawyer indicating that my father's estate was worth less than $25K and under Indiana's spousal provision law, my stepmother is entitled to an allowance of $25K from the estate. He has said that because of this provision and the worth of the estate, she is entitled to everything in my father's estate and I should stop attempting to contact her. I have found the legal information on in.gov., but am somewhat confused. This seems to conflict with the intestate law and provision for the division of assets. Can anyone offer any insight?

    Thanks all!
    My father was diagnosed with Mesothelioma asbestos caused cancer...had a law suit. His ex girlfriend that through dad away two years prior convince my father into marrying her dad found out her motive filed for divorce bud died before the divorce was final they were married 83 days and now is trying to collect all the moeny for the lawsuit. We have proof of her motive voicemails from here stating to my father you will die bfore me I will get it all. But the good old Indiana law has failed us Again!!!!!
  12. #12
    justalayman is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by msbarajas View Post
    We have proof of her motive voicemails from here stating to my father you will die bfore me I will get it all. But the good old Indiana law has failed us Again!!!!!
    I presume you were telling your story simply to show sympathy for the original poster but I must ask this:

    how is Indiana law failing you? Your father made the choices he did. The law generally cannot protect you from yourself.

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