Pittsburgh, PA asked in Wrongful Death for West Virginia

Q: My siblings and I have been made aware of our legal right to make a claim for part of the settlement in wrongful death

My stepfather filed the claim for my mother's wrongful death. They have no children together. She left a will that provided first for my step father, second for my sister my brother and myself. Will the settlement award be treated like a intestate succession or will her will dictate how the money will be distributed? I think I read that in the case of a wrongful death settlement, the money passes out of the estate and follows the intestate formula. Any idea how this would be divided? Is it possible to receive an award based on "loss of inheritance"? My mother was his third wife. They were married 14 years. We are all adults, ages 40, 42, 47 . We would (the siblings) prefer to handle this without a lot of courtroom drama. A friendly sit down would be perfect but I'm not sure he will want to do that. Is it totally up to the discretion of the judge? Is it posssible to mediate this and avoid having the judge decide?He lives in MORGANTOWN WVa

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2 Lawyer Answers

A: Wrongful death beneficiaries and the distribution of damages for wrongful death are determined by statute in Virginia. It is separate from the decedent's estate (not an inheritance) and does not fall under the will. While your stepfather can qualify to be the personal representative for the wrongful death claim, he must distribute the proceeds to the statutory beneficiaries.

If the death occurred in Virginia, the statutory beneficiaries are the surviving spouse and any children of the decedent. The statutory beneficiaries can agree how to distribute the apportionment of damages or have a judge, jury or mediator decide.

If there is a settlement without litigation and the parties do not agree on apportionment, mediation is a good option.

A Virginia attorney would be of assistance in the process.

Peter N. Munsing
Peter N. Munsing

A: If there is an estate opened and suit filed contact the attorney that is handling it. Let him know who all of you are.

If you aren't sure, look for an estate being opened in the county where your mom lived before she passed.

Why not contact a member of the W Virginia Trial Lawyers Assn.

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