Can someone legally transfer all assets to a single child prior to their passing.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can someone legally transfer all assets to a single child prior to their passing.

Around the time of my grandmother being diagnosed with dementia, her bank accounts were updated to add her eldest daughter’s my aunt name to the account and deeds to property were signed over to my aunt. The transfer of property deeds was unknown to the rest of the family and it was assumed a trust had been created to address how the estate would be allocated. No details of insurance claims, bank accounts or net worth of the estate were ever disclosed upon my grandmother’s death. Since my grandmother’s death, my aunt managed the rental properties and disbursed a monthly allowance to the three of her siblings. This was assumed to be part of the trust and their was a trust in the way my aunt had been managing the estate. It wasn’t until late last year was it discovered that one of the houses that had been deeded over to my aunt had been sold and the proceeds had gone to pay off her credit cards, her house and her medical bills, her siblings did not receive any proceeds of the sale…approximately 360K.

There are now only three living children my aunt, an uncle and my mother. Is there any recourse for my uncle and mother? I understand if my grandmother had been diagnosed with dementia or signs of dementia at the time the deeds were signed over to my aunt there may be cause, however we were never provided medical records or know how to obtain medical records for a deceased family member.

We do have a copy of a will that was created approximately 40 years ago that stated how one of the properties would be distributed.

Asked on February 9, 2017 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a parent may transfer some or all assets to a single child prior to death: it is her property, and she may choose what to do with it or who to give it to. And once the assets belong to your aunt, she could do with them as she wishes. As you point out, it is possible that the transfer could be challenged if there is evidence that your aunt was mentally incompetent at the time of the transfer, or else evidence that--
1) Your aunt used force or threats of criminal activity or violence to get your aunt to transfer to her;
2) Your aunt committed fraud to get the transfer--that is, lied to her mother about some material or important fact; or 
3) Your aunt forgered her mother's signature, so that your grandmother did not actually make the transfers. 
Short of being able to prove one or more of the above, the transfer would be legal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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