Legal Will

Updated on March 07, 2013
V.R. asks from Eureka, CA
8 answers

My first cousin passed away from cancer at the age of 72 3 months ago. I have had a relationship with this man my entire life. He had a will drawn up 7 years ago leaving his house and his estate to his sister. No specifics, just the "estate." He also has a son whom he disowned when his son, 'Phillip' was 13. This was due to no fault of his now adult son, but most likely due to an undiagnosed mental illness on the past of my cousin.
I flew to his state after he received his diagnosis with his sister and then again when he went into hospice. I was going to drive up there so I could take his dogs but his sister arranged for Phillip to come and get them with the hopes that my cousin would see his son and mend fences on his death bed.
9 years ago, I was with my family at my cousin's house when they took out one of my cousin's guns. He told my son that he would inherit that gun someday and he taught him how to clean it and take care of it. Last year when I flew out there, my cousin told me again he wanted my husband and my son to have all of his guns (5 in total) and told me where they were hidden and where the key was.
He also told me before I left to pick up his dogs when he went into hospice that he wanted me to have his car. So, I flew there and drove the car back. He told me not to let Phillip in the house and not to give anything to him. i did both. Phillip wanted the gun that had been promised to my son. I gave it to him. My cousin did not ever agree to mend fences with his son, although he did let him take the dogs.
When he gave me the car, I asked him why he gave me the car. He told me he loved me and wanted me to have something to remember him by and that would be a good car that would last awhile. Everyone involved knew I had the car and was in full agreement with that as well as the guns. During this time, when he entered hospice, he could converse completely normally 99% of the time but then he would say some oddball thing that led the doctors to believe the cancer had gotten to his brain. He was still lucid but due to another family member trying to gain access to some of his estate, we had him declared mentally incompetent.
I decided, in what I thought was an extremely generous offer, that I would give his sister my car and that I would continue paying for it. ( I even drove it 700 miles and delivered it to her.) I have since paid the car off and will be sending her the pink slip.
However, my cousin's sister and his son have decided that they want the car back. They said he was mentally incompetent when he gave it to me and they also want the guns. They will give me my car back in this deal.
My cousin's sister feels like if her brother was 'normal' mentally that everything would have gone to his son and she and I wouldn't be involved at all. She plans on giving half of his money and house to his son because she wants to try to right those wrongs.
She has the attorney that my cousin used to draw up the will and the atty has said he was mentally incompetent. After some discussion, his sister agreed to let me keep the car but wants me to send his son $1,500.00 and to send the guns at a cost of approx $350.
I can't come up with all of that and do not in any way feel it is fair or that it fixes anything that happened to Phillip when he was a child. Phillip also told me repeatedly that he did not want anything from his dad.
My cousin signed over the car to me while he was still alive and it is now registered in my name.
To be clear, my cousin told me over a year ago that he wanted my husband and my son to have the guns when he died but I did not take them into my possession until he went to hospice and I picked up the car. We have already given the guns to my 12 year old son.
My cousin was declared mentally incompetent just a few days after he signed the car over to me and I took the guns but he was actually completely lucid 99% of the time. We had several complex conversations about why he wanted me to have the car.
What would you do?
I am sorry for the length of this but it is a long story

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answers from Sacramento on

Oh this sucks. I hate hearing these stories but they happen all the time.

First, I wouldn't send Sister the title to your old car until this is all resolved. Second, if you haven't already done so, file a Release of Liability with the CA DMV on your old car. I'm guessing that the car may be currently uninsured and if Sister has an accident, you may be held liable as the registered owner of the car.

As for Cousin's car, I think a major point would be when did he sign the car's title over? Was it before or after he was declared incompetent? If it was before, you should be okay. Contact the cousin's lawyer to see the exact date he was legally declared incompetent and compare it to the date he signed over the title.

I agree with the other post who said let them make the arrangements to trade vehicles. They can pick up the guns at the same time. You already flew at your expense to pick up Cousin's car and drove 700 miles to deliver your old car. I think your financial obligation in this matter is over.

The only reason everyone is making a fuss over the car and guns is they have a monetary value and are easy to sell. I doubt anyone is fighting over his old recliner.

I find it amusing that his sister said had it not been for Cousin's mental illness, everything would have gone to his son and you both wouldn't be involved. Yet now she is going to give the son HALF and keep the rest??? If she truly believed what she was saying, she'd give the son the whole estate.

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm having a little trouble following, but as I understand it, your cousin that passed away gave you the guns and car while he was living. Was he already declared mentally incompetent when he gave you these things, that can lead to a problem. If not, as I understand it, the car and guns are not part of the "estate" as they were gifts to you while he was living. Just to make it go away, I would counter offer that you will make the car available to be picked up upon the return of your car and to transfer the title to the sister's name. At the same time, make the guns available to be picked up as well. I wouldn't give any money or give any expense to return these items. You can get a lawyer and fight it, but it will cost you more. Just give them the stuff back and move on.

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answers from St. Louis on

Attorney's can't declare someone incompetent, they can only petition the court to do so. Up to the point where the court declared him incompetent his transactions stand since they were not addressed by the court at the time he was declared incompetent.

To nullify the transactions she would have to petition the court and would probably be more expensive for her than what she wants to get and she would probably not be successful.

The choice is your what to do with the items. Simply tell her I do not see a court order declaring those transactions null because of mental incompetence. Granted that is some major bridge burning so you need to figure out how much that bridge is worth to you.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Posession is 9/10 of the law.

The car was signed over prior to death - its yours to do with as you please. The guns were given prior to death - again yours to do with as you please.
I would think they would have to prove he was incompitent at the time he gave you the gifts in order to take them back (they weren't part of the estate), but again posession is 9/10 of the law.

That is my thoughts. He wanted you to have these things so honor his wishes and don't sweat the rest of it.

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answers from Miami on

If it wasn't in writing and witnessed by a third party... it never happened.

If the car is registered in your name and signed over to you, it's yours. Everything else is not. What you think is "fair" is irrelevant, albeit valid. You can't contest this because you have no grounds.

I'm sorry this is happening. People do strange things out of grief/anger/guilt and you are taking the brunt of it.

Take this as a life lesson and make sure that your own Will is clear regarding your wishes. We teased my grandparents and great grandparents, but they were really smart. There were items that they knew held great value to each of us for different reasons and those items were CLEARLY "left" to a specific person. Other items were to be divided among the family at the discretion of my great aunt.

There was no "grey area" and no hurt feelings.

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answers from Dallas on

If the car was given to you and the title was signed over to you before your cousin was declared mentally incompetent, then it is your car NOT part of the estate. It is something that your cousin once owned, but he did not own it upon his death or when he became incompetent. Therefore, it's yours. You don't owe anyone anything for it. I'm confused as to why you gave your car to his sister, but that's not relevant to the ownership and possession of this car.

Also, if your cousin gave you the guns while he was alive and had not been declared mentally incompetent, then they are yours. I'm assuming that you had possession of the guns at that time (alive and competent). If so, they clearly are not part of the estate; they are items that your cousin once owned and then gifted to you.

I think the difference here is a matter of when the transfer of title took place (before or after death and before or after decleared legally incompetent). Anything that happened while your cousin was alive and still legally competent was a gift, not an inheritance. You have no obligation to return those gifts, particularly not to someone who had no legal right to any inheritance and who had been specifically excluded from any gifts or ineheritance.

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answers from Cumberland on

The will from 7 years ago-while your cousin was mentally competent-should stand.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Let them take you to court. IF they go that far they may not have any grounds. If they win then they win, if they don't then you have lost nothing.

If he did these things before those papers were drawn up then he was legally competent. There should be someone you can ask about the legality of all this though. Perhaps you can find an attorney who offers a 30 minute free consultation.

1 mom found this helpful
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