Lewistown, PA asked in Estate Planning, Probate and Small Claims for Pennsylvania

Q: My father passed away in early January. We live in Pennsylvania and he passed away without a will.

He was living with his girlfriend at her house at the time of his passing. He has a fairly large gun collection of about sixty or so firearms including some handguns. My brother is the named executor of the estate that he had to file to open. My father's girlfriend is refusing allowing us in her house and has only been giving one box of belongings (she refuses to give any firearms) every few weeks to "comply" with her lawyer. However, our lawyer has not been very helpful with us as we would like to retrieve all the property, especially the firearms in a reasonable time frame. What steps do we need to do force her to give us all the property? From her actions and conversations, we have the feeling she will try to sell some of the long rifles, since they aren't required to be registered in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

1 Lawyer Answer
Michael Cherewka
Michael Cherewka
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Wormleysburg, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: First of all since your brother is named Executor he has the responsibility and the authority to collect and protect all personal property of your father. Since you call your brother the Executor I am assuming there is a Will and the girlfriend is either not named in the Will or was not bequeathed the personal property. Alternatively, if there was no Will then the girlfriend has no rights to any of your father's property and no right to delay your brother from collecting it.

You do mention that the girlfriend states she has an attorney. That should make it easy for the Estate attorney to demand access to the personal property and to arrange a day (or several days if necessary) to go to the house and collect it all at once rather than tolerate this game she is playing. While all estate attorneys tend to be sensitive to emotions when a loved one dies, and to family conflicts or potential conflicts in situations like yours, it appears that your brother may need to get more assertive here about access to either the house or at least to your father's Property. We have used neutral parties (like local Constables) to be present during such pick up days to "keep the peace", and you may also need to have the two attorneys present in the event the girlfriend appears to be limiting access to your father's Property (or in the event she feels your brother is unfairly demanding to "search the house" or some other excessive demand).

You do say it is "her house". Not sure if that means she owns the house or rents it (or if they jointly owned it or rented it). That gives her some privacy rights, but if she continues to not cooperate the Estate can get a court order to allow the collection of the Property (particularly if it can be shown that there are concerns she may sell or not turn over all of dad's Property) and it is not likely that the Court will allow the one box at a time process.

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