My sister inherited the family home, but not the contents. She organized a ‘yard sale’, and key items were missing. Should I take legal action?

My older sister and I are in the process of being named co-executors of my parents’ estate through the courts, as stated in their will. Dad passed away in January 2021. Mom passed away in 2019. For tax reasons, my parents listed their house in my sister’s name. After the COVID-safe funeral and while I was in the process of finding an attorney to handle the estate, I offered my sister help in searching the house.

His answer was: “The house is mine.” To which I replied, “Yes, but his possessions are not,” and mentioned where in the will it said this. (I’m glad I read it).

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“‘If two people wanted the same item, we could flip a coin to avoid hurting feelings.’ ”

I offered an idea for the beneficiaries and their families to go around the house with a notebook and pen, make a list of the topics that interested them, and then the three brothers would meet to discuss. If two people wanted the same item, we could flip a coin so as not to hurt feelings. I thought it was a fair way to handle a difficult task. My sister’s response: “I’ll think about it.” Weeks went by and I got a text message from my sister on a Thursday afternoon saying she was ready to let us go home, and she asked me to let her know what time on Saturday or Sunday we would like to be there. He also asked me to pass this information on to my brother. I was hoping to walk through my family’s house. What I found was part of the content of my parents’ garage house setup, like a yard sale. Needless to say, it was a very unpleasant experience. Many items I looked for weren’t there and I got vague answers about what had happened to them. My brother was outraged, words were exchanged and he left disgusted. Was this even legal?

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“‘A lot of articles I looked for weren’t there, and I got vague answers about what had happened to them.’ ”

This is the last case where my sister does exactly what she pleases without regard for the others involved. My sister did most of the heavy lifting of caring for my parents, but she never asked for help when it was offered. For example, I suggested an assisted living facility for them to live in, but they immediately closed me down. She’d been there, seen it, and didn’t like it, so it was a no. He has a great job making six figures and a beautiful house that is paid for. She has no cash problems, but when we started this process, she kept saying, “I have to think about my retirement.” He is 67 years old. I think you are filling your 401 (k) with everything you can get. I am considering hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit against him. Since my parents died, he has tried to take away my brother’s trust. Again, I told him that the will states that the beneficiaries of the trust will be the surviving children of my parents. I’m not a lawyer, but everything she’s doing seems vague, and I certainly don’t trust her. I don’t want to end up in an endless court battle. How would you go after this? Or would you just shut down the property and walk away from a toxic individual? Respectfully Baffled in Boston You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Do you want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter and read more of his columns here. Dear Baffled: Your sister should have waited for the probate process to complete before removing – or, indeed, selling or hiding – items from your family home. She has acted beyond her powers as the beneficiary of her parents’ household, and in direct contradiction to the terms of the will. Based on the alleged missing articles and her actions surrounding the family trust, she has shown that she cannot be trusted to be a co-executor of her parents’ will.

“‘Based on the alleged missing articles and her actions surrounding the family trust, she has shown that she cannot be trusted to be a co-executor.’ “- The Moneyist

“Involving an attorney and the court system can help recover lost or stolen items,” according to the law firm Hopler, Wilms & Hanna. “To avoid taking the matter to court, an attorney can work with disgruntled family members to create a process to recover property that was taken and assist in the proper distribution of assets. With the family, it is generally best to resolve issues as amicably as possible. “” However, the most challenging cases may require court involvement, “adds the law firm.” They may also require repossession of the property. This is done by filing a verified petition and having a hearing before a judge. During the hearing, which in all respects is a trial, the evidence is taken and a judge will decide whether the person is improperly in possession of the property. ” lets continue as co-executor, expect more of the same. She has, in a way, done you a favor by showing her hand. Don’t expect her to act reasonably or even legally from this point on. That way, no You will not be surprised or disappointed. Gather a list of the missing items and any evidence related to your attempts to remove your brother as beneficiary of the family trust, and ask the probate court to the sole executor and / or share the duties with his brother. Any other legal action should be taken in consultation with your brother and his estimate of the value (financial and sentimental) of the missing items. Hello MarketWatchers. Check out Moneyist’s private Facebook group US: FB, where we search for answers to life’s thorniest money problems. Readers write to me with all kinds of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or comment on the latest Moneyist columns. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, on all media and platforms, including third parties.