Without a will, there's no way

DEAR BRUCE: Our grandfather left a substantial amount of money to his six kids, about $100,000 each, but he died without a will, thinking the kids would live by his wishes. One of his sisters (my aunt) took the entire $600,000 out of the bank after his death and never divided it. Is there any legal recourse that can be taken, as none of the other siblings ever made her administrator of his estate? — D.F., via e-mail

DEAR D.F.: You say your grandfather left a substantial amount of money to his kids, but that is not true. Since he died without a will, the state will decide to whom and in what amounts the residual of his estate, after his obligations have been settled, will go. How your aunt took the money out of the bank is another question. She may have been on the account — and if she was, the money, in most cases, would belong to her. Furthermore, someone should apply to the surrogate's office in the county where your grandfather lived to be named administrator of his estate to settle the legal matters. Should this application be made, all of his children will be asked to sign off. The likelihood is that your aunt would object to someone else's being appointed administrator. If it gets to that, there would be legal motions made on the part of both parties, and the surrogate would have to settle the matter. This is just another example of how having a properly drawn will would obviate all of these difficulties. A few dollars spent on a will would have saved a great many dollars that will now have to be expended.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns.

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