When you don’t trust a will’s executor

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Q. Before my mom passed in August, she told me she had two life insurance policies and I was the beneficiary. She also said she had things in a safety deposit box. I live across the country, but my brother, who lives closer, said she cashed out the policies, emptied the safety deposit box, sold her car and got a reverse mortgage on the house. How can I make sure whatever’s left was evenly divided?
— Beneficiary

A. We’re sorry to hear about your mother.

We’re also sorry to hear you don’t feel you can trust your brother.

You may need to do some investigating. There’s always a paper trail.

If the policies were cashed out by your mom, then they don’t exist any longer, said Yale Hauptman, an estate planning attorney with Hauptman and Hauptman in Livingston.

“If you know the name of the insurance company and policy number, you can try to contact them to confirm this, although they may not divulge much information if you were not the named beneficiary,” he said.

Here are some tips to help track down old policies. Check here, too.

If she had a reverse mortgage, then you know she owned a home. Hauptman said if the home was not owned jointly, then it would be a probate asset.

“You can check with the surrogate of the county where she died to see if a will was probated or any estate administration application was filed,” he said. “The home would need to be sold by the executor or administrator, so I would think there would be some filing necessary.”

If there was, you can contact the executor/administrator – you didn’t say if the executor was your brother – for more information.

As for the safe deposit box, Hauptman said the executor/administrator, once appointed, would be able to empty the contents of the box.

“If, however, your mom emptied the contents there would obviously be nothing for the executor/administrator to retrieve but again, you can check with that person,” he said.

If your brother was the executor and you don’t believe he’s being honest with you, you may need to work with your own attorney to make sure your getting what you’re due.

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