Wills and bequests

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Wills and bequests

My wife is the executor of her father’s estate. There is very little in assets, $5000, that we can see. However, we did find out that he had left instructions with his landlord at his death to distribute contents of a safe deposit box to herself and one other person $10,000. The landlord told us that she was supposed to keep this from my wife. Now we are at a point to file his taxes for last year and there is not enough money to pay them. Should we notify these parties that the $10,000 belonged to the estate and it should be returned to pay expenses Also, if bequests were not in the signed Will do they have to be followed as written?

Asked on March 5, 2019 under Estate Planning, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Only bequests in a valid (properly signed and witnessed) will are enforceable: no other instructions as to what to do with assets after a person's death have any power whatsoever. What your father-in-law told his landlord is irrelevant: the contents of the safe deposit become the property of the estate, to be used for estate expenses and debts, and also to (if anything is left over after expenses and debts) to be distributed as per the terms of the will.
The money in the box must be returned to the estate. If it is not, your wife, as executor, can file a lawsuit on behalf of the estate against the landlord and the other person, to recover the money from the box.

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