Q: Does a stepchild have a right to belongings or ashes.
This stepchild is now in their 40's. My brother passed away in Texas where I live because he was here going to MDAnderson Cancer Center. He lived in Colorado. My sister or myself was not able to go to Colorado and take care of his belongings. Stepchild was suppose to put everything in storage until we could all get together at a later date. She took what she wanted, including things that had belonged to our parents. She now has our brothers ashes. She will not answer any form of contact with any of us. Is there anything we can do?
A: Assuming that no personal representative has yet been appointed by a court and no estate has been opened, you or your sister could petition a court in Colorado to appoint you as the personal representative of your brother's estate. The process thereafter may vary depending on whether your brother died with or without a will, but being named the personal representative would provide you some power to begin settling his estate.
The first step should probably be hiring a probate attorney in Colorado, perhaps one near where your brother lived or, if he still owned real estate in Colorado, one near that real estate. With the assistance of a probate attorney, you can determine how best to proceed against the stepdaughter who may have taken items from the estate to which she was not entitled.
If your brother died without an estate plan in place, you and your attorney may be particularly interested in Colorado's definitions for descendant, parent, and child. Under Colorado Revised Statute Section 15-10-201(11), a “descendant” requires a Parent-Child relationship at each generation. CRS Section 15-10-201(7) defines “child” to specifically exclude a “stepchild” or “foster child.” CRS Section 15-10-201(36) defines “parent” to specifically exclude a “stepparent” or “foster parent.” Therefore, a “stepchild” who was not actually adopted by your brother is not considered one of his descendants for purposes of intestacy (when someone dies without a will and relies on state law to determine who gets their stuff) and, thus, not one of his heirs in the event he died without a will or trust in place to name that stepchild as an heir.
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