Pittsburgh, PA asked in Wrongful Death for West Virginia

Q: In a wrongful death case can my lawyer give some of my settlement to other people after i signed the release form

I signed release form that stated i am the sole beneficiary and i am to get 100% of the settlement.Now my lawyer is calling my husbands family and trying to give them some of the settlement.

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: I would need more information to give you a specific answer to your question. You are apparently the personal representative of what seems to be your late husband's estate. That does not mean that you are the sole recipient of the wrongful death recovery, even if your husband left a will naming you the sole beneficiary of his estate. West Virginia's wrongful death statute provides that the judge or jury distribute the recovery to the following: "surviving spouse and children, including adopted children and stepchildren, brothers, sisters, parents and any persons who were financially dependent upon the decedent at the time of his or her death or would otherwise be equitably entitled to share in such distribution."

The members of your husband's family are likely in one of those categories named in the statute, and are entitled to make a claim for a portion of the settlement. If everyone cannot agree on the distribution, the judge will make the decision as to who receives what.

I would need to see the release form before I could comment on what it says, but it would not override West Virginia law, unless all of the potential recipients agreed to a distribution different from West Virginia law.

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