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Incorrect distribution of a legacy - any advice (legal and moral) welcome

(36 Posts)
Pennies Tue 01-May-07 14:37:11

My dad was the trustee and executor of my grandmother's will. When she died he was responsible for distributing the legacies to those involved. At the time of her death I had a big row with him and he withheld half of the financial legacy she had left me until I apologised to his (then) girlfriend (the row was about her) which I thought was a really crappy way to behave and I lost a lot of respect for him as a result of that.

It seems this isn't the only way he's used the will to reward / punish people.

Recently he told me that my grandma left her rings (several impressively large diamond and sapphire things) to my mum. My parents are divorced (AGES ago, and my mum stayed in contact with my grandma until she died) and he decided that his new wife (th girlfriend menationed above whom he married several years after my grandma died) should recieve the rings as she helped him a lot when she was at the end of her life and in a home.

The rings themselves don't bother me - not my type of thing, but my key points are as follows:

1) The mis-allocation of the items seems morally bankrupt IMO. Beyond that though, is it legal?

2) My mum would have been very touched to have them and would have enjoyed owning them.

3) My mum would have left them either to me or my DDs (and if she gave them to me I'd have held onto them for them as I don't really like the rings) so in effect he has cheated my DDs out of that inheritance.

4) I can't see how I can tackle this issue without there being an almightly row but I feel something needs to be said or done.

What is the legal position here? How can I view a copy of the will? Also if anyone has any moral / relationship guidance too I would be most grateful.

GameGirly Tue 01-May-07 14:39:25

I'm no lawyer, but surely if your grandma left the rings to your mother, then he was legally obliged to pass them on to her? Definitely worth checking, IMO.

jampot Tue 01-May-07 14:40:11

you can obtain a copy of the will by writing to your local probate registry (address/phone in the phone book or online). You need date of death, name and address of deceased and a fiver I think.

You also need to speak to a solicitor as your dad as personal rep/executor has a legal duty to distribute the estate correctly and in accordance with the terms of the will. Im sure that you can pursue him for the difference but definitely speak to a solicitor

mumto3girls Tue 01-May-07 14:41:17

contact the solicitor that dealt with her will and tell them.

Freckle Tue 01-May-07 14:41:56

There are strict rules relating to acting as executor of a will. If your dad has not distributed the estate in accordance with the instructions contained in the will, he has abused his powers and there are remedies available to you. You should consult a probate solicitor.

Did you apologise and get your money in the end??

piglit Tue 01-May-07 14:44:55

Have only got about 1 minute before I go out so have to be quick but I would agree that you should get hold of a copy of the will pdq. Did your dad use a solicitor to help him with winding up the estate (he should have)? What he has done is a breach of his fiduciary duty as a trustee and he could be in big trouble over this. You are right - if you get involved it will cause an almighty row but, as you say, he is morally bankrupt and needs a good kick up the arse. IMHO.

NKF Tue 01-May-07 14:44:58

I think wills are lodged somewhere where anyone can view them.

It's illegal. Of that I'm sure. I suspect there will be an almighty row but can you bear that he gets away with what is essentially theft?

NKF Tue 01-May-07 14:47:44

Sorry, you also asked for moral/relationship guidance here. Very hard. When the storm breaks - and it will - how about saying something like "I didn't want to stand by and see my dad get into trouble for breaking the law." He won't believe you but he might just realise the level of trouble he's in. I think it's shocking. Terrible terrible behaviour. Dishonest, dishonourable. He should be ashamed of himself.

Pennies Tue 01-May-07 14:48:16

Oh blimey I just re-read - apologies for the bad typing.

mum2three - I don't know the name of the solicitor involved so I can't really get in touch with him without asking my dad and then he'll ask why.

jampots - thanks for the advice re. local registrar. Does it have to be the one where she died or can it be anywhere?

freckle - what do you mean by "remedis available to you"? I did apologise although I didn't mean it. The whole episode has left a bitter taste in my mouth, despite it being nearly 10 years ago now.

The thing is my father and I are getting along very well at the moment and I can't see how else I can tackle this without really rocking the boat. Also my mother doesn't know that he cheated her out of her legacy and if that came out it would really hurt her.

I considered telling my half uncle (not my grandmother's son) who knew my grandmother very well and is very close to my dad but is also less enamoured of his new wife.

But to add insult to injury my dad gave one of these rings to new wife as her engagement ring so I can't exactly demand that back can I?

throckenholt Tue 01-May-07 14:48:19

I know of a similar situation where the two children were executors, and the will said to give x to each of them, and then share the rest between the grandchildren.

They actually took the x for themselves, and then split the rest between themselves and the grandchildren equally. So they ended up x thousand better off and the grandchildren missed out on x thousand each. Not sure how many of the grandchildren realised this - but those that did decided it was better to let things lie rather than cause a family row by complaining.

Not an easy situation - very much depends on the relationships of the people involved.

throckenholt Tue 01-May-07 14:49:17

just another thought - maybe you could ask your father the make sure that the rings get passed on to the granddaughters - so that they get to stay in the family in the way they would have done if they had gone to your mum.

NKF Tue 01-May-07 14:50:35

Pennies. You have to. Otherwise it will eat away at you. Does his new girlfriend really want to wear a stolen ring?

mumto3girls Tue 01-May-07 14:51:15

Yes you can demand the ring back (cheapskate or what???).

How do you know they were left to your mum and why was nothing said at the time you found out?

NKF Tue 01-May-07 14:52:03

I doubt that you can do it without rocking the boat.

mumto3girls Tue 01-May-07 14:52:32

The ring is stolen and is only on her finger through decepetion/fraud.
The police can recover stolen property regardlessof whether it's been given away or sold.

He should buy her a ring...UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Pennies Tue 01-May-07 14:53:32

NFK and piglit - my dad and the law... a long and very interesting story. Suffice to say he has already served a suspended sentence. If I got him in trouble with the law that would be it forever. But I still feel he needs to be told that what he's done is unaceptabe, but even just telling him that will be hideous and I also feel something needs to be done rather than just said.

I think I just want someone else to do the dirty work for me.

I ALSO think that his wife is as bad as him for accepting the rings as she MUST have known what was in the will.

Pennies Tue 01-May-07 14:56:16

mumto3girls - he told me!!! I was too shocked to say anything.

Taylormama Tue 01-May-07 14:56:57

if there are specific legacies (ie the will states that the rings should go to your mum) then that is what should have happened)
I think you should get to a CAB and take advice - they will be able to put you in touch with a law centre etc

NKF Tue 01-May-07 14:57:26

Sorry to hear all that. I'd do it through a lawyer I think.

Grrrr Tue 01-May-07 15:07:52

Could you pretend that you wish to make a will and ask him the name of the solicitors saying that you "want to use them as they seemed pretty efficient in dealing with you grandmother's will".

Your dad does seem to play fast and loose with other people's money doesn't he.

NKF Tue 01-May-07 15:12:34

Don't you need a lawyer to wind up an estate? I would have thought that the law recognises how easy it is for the exectuor to run off with the legacies and have some sort of check in place.

jampot Tue 01-May-07 16:31:58

when my grandmother died she willed that her house be sold and various legacies paid and the remainder to be split between my dad and his sister (who hadnt seen their mum for 20 years). My aunt decided she had nowhere to live and wanted to live in the mothers house, my dad decided she shouldnt be homeless so agreed until they could come up with a solution. The solicitor who was executor sat on it for several years until after my dad died and then my mum died and has now died himself never having truly executed the will in accordance with my grandmothers wishes. We now possibly have a fight on our hands to get our dads share as my aunt is still living quite nicely in tghe house and can if she so chooses claim it as her own.

You need to get it sorted

Pennies Tue 01-May-07 16:40:14

jampot - blimey - so can she now claim ownership under squatters rights or something?

I have found a website that can send me a certified copy of her will. I will read it and then see what that throws up.

The more I think about it the more I suspect he's done more than the things I know about. For example, my bro was also left an enormous diamond rock worth thousands and thousands which his wife now wears as her engagement ring (what is it with men in my family not shelling out for engagement rings?) and I know that there were three, so as DF's new wife has one (which should be my mum's) I can't help but wonder where the other one is?

I will leave it to see what the will says though and then, if needed come back here for more sage advice. I have to say though that seeing the reaction to this situation by the people on here has made me realise just how badly he has acted and I am now very very angry with him indeed.

tatt Sun 17-Jun-07 06:36:55

have just found this while looking for advice for a friend. You do not have to have a solicitor to wind up an estate although most people use one. It is illegal not to distribute assets in accordance with a will and your relatives shoudl eb aware of thet. If a solicitor was involved there should be a complaint to their professional body.

KathH Sun 17-Jun-07 09:47:35

you can go to the Probate Registry & get a copy of the Grant of Probate which has the Will within it - it costs something like £7.50.

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