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Recently I learned that my Grandmother left her home in Visalia, California to her grandchildren in her will. There are 6 biological grandchildren. I do not know the specifics of the will and whether "the grandchildren" are specifically named.

My parents are in the possession of the will as well as this house which is on three acres of land. I asked to see the will and they refused to show me. My cousin found out that my parents had given the other grand children $10,000 each for their part of the house that they believed they would receive if the house was sold. I asked my cousins about it and they confirmed that they had received the money.

I asked my parents if I could move into the home because I am living in their backyard with my three kids. I do have a good job but they kicked us out of the home when the pandemic hit. My parents told me, and I quote, "you can have it when we die!"

I only want a home to live in and I would pay them rent because they are now renting it out. At least give me my part then because I could actually use this to better my family's situation.

Is this legal for them to deny me my inheritance or even pay off the other cousins--leaving me in the dark? Do I have any legal recourse to their actions or to claim the home or my part of the home?

Are there laws being broken?

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  • Welcome! Tammy, I rearranged your question to hopefully make it easier to read. It has to be approved before everyone can see it. You can edit it or undo the changes. You may want to take the tour. – mkennedy Nov 19 '20 at 21:51
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It is impossible to tell if anything here is contrary to law without knowing what is in the will. One scenario is that Grandmother willed the property to all six biological grandchildren and excluded some number of non-biological grandchildren. The property is to be divided equally between the grandchildren, and nothing goes to her children. Someone was named executor of the estate, let's say your mother. The parents have permission to reside in the house, rent-free. In that case, Mother files paperwork in the county courthouse and is authorized to distribute the assets of the estate. This could involve selling the property and splitting the cash equally, but it could also involve handing over equivalent cash to the grandchildren (from Mother's personal cash). I assume that the estate was not in a trust.

You can get a copy of the will from the county courthouse, because it will have been filed there as part of the probate process (should have been): copies are 50 cent per page. At some point, you will get some paperwork that spells out the details of the distribution. One option is that all interested parties either sign a waiver of accounting, or else acknowledge having gotten their share of the estate. You will get a notice about a hearing to close probate, and you may object at the hearing if you contest the distribution of assets. You can request notice of all court proceedings by filing a request with the court (cctually, I mean your attorney would do this for you).

One obvious concern is whether the assumed $10,000 share is the correct amount. Obviously, actually selling and dividing by 6 is one way to get that figure. If the market value of the property is $100,000 and there are no debts that the estate must pay, $10,000 each is a lowball figure, and could motivate hiring an attorney.

Another scenario is that somebody is just doing things without paying attention to legal formalities. For example, the cookie jar cash might just have gone into somebody's pocket. Bank accounts, savings bonds and real estate can't be accessed / transferred without filing the will and petitioning for letters of testamentary (etc.), which involves the courts, which makes it difficult to do something sneaky. It is not legal to deny you your inheritance, but it is legal to keep you in the dark (not provide you with a coy of the will). It is also not required that settling up with all interested parties be done at the same time.

Because you can lose rights if you miss deadlines, you need to get an attorney who knows about the deadlines and can make the correct legal noises if someone is doing something illegal. The legal system doesn't actively protect your interests, it provides you a level playing field for you to assert your legal rights, if you follow the procedural rules.

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  • Thank you that was very helpful. – Tammy Nov 20 '20 at 15:28

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