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Be careful about taking care of an estate without legal authority

When a parent passes away, it's important to know who has the legal authority to take care of things. When siblings don't know what the will says--or ignore it--problems can ensue.

For example, one woman lived far from her father and her brother, all the way in another state. They lived much closer together, however. When the father passed away, the brother took it upon himself to do things at the house, taking care of loose ends and just dealing with the man's estate.

The problem, though, was that the sister was technically the executor, not the brother. She showed up later, expecting everything to be in place, but it wasn't. They then started fighting when she said the brother had removed items from their father's home.

It's important to note that this can happen maliciously or innocently. The brother could have been removing items because he wanted to keep them, knowing they weren't necessarily going to him, or because he wanted to sell items and take the money before his sister showed up to start distributing assets. At the same time, though, it's equally possible that he just thought he was helping out, that he was taking care of things so that his sister wouldn't have to do as much.

In either case, he would not legally be allowed to take part of the estate or deal with it in a way other than what the will stated. Intentions don't typically matter. As such, be sure you always know what rights you have when dividing an estate in New York, and be careful to do things properly.

Source: Learn Vest, "For the Love of Family: 6 Tales of Estate Planning Gone Wrong," Kristin Appenbrink, accessed March 28, 2016

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