Richmond, VA asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Virginia

Q: If an executor of an estate fails to perform his duties and all property sits unclaimed for years, can heirs claim it?

My ‘well to do’ great-great aunt died in 2005 with a will naming her nephew as executor, he and his wife as beneficiaries, and my father as an heir. This nephew died intestate in 2003. His wife died in 2005, five months after my g-g aunt. 2 months prior to wife’s death she appointed a friend as administrator and sole beneficiary in her will. This man swindled her and robbed my father of his inheritance, albeit unsuccessfully.

I know this because all of the collective real estate owned by them has sat vacant and abandoned since the passing of the wife.

Also, the remaining assets are now on the unclaimed property list. These assets are varied and commingled under the administrator’s name. He has not benefited from his scheme as checks go uncashed and stocks are sold off by ucp.

Court records indicate that he gave up in 2009 and everything was turned over to the Virginia State Treasury.

What type of attorney should we, the heirs, seek first? Probate? Estate? Civil or Criminal?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: Your description is too imprecise to render an opinion, but it sounds like you need a probate attorney licensed in Virginia to re-open the estate of Wife. I don't understand from your description what Father's rights are. You call him an heir, but you tell me that the sole beneficiaries of the estate were the predeceased Nephew, who is thereby disqualified as both an executor and a beneficiary, and his Wife. If that is so, Wife was the sole beneficiary, and her interest vested when Great Great Aunt (GGA) died. That interest then passed to Friend when Wife died, and Father has no interests unless they derive of Friend. If there was some timely caveat to Wife's will, then that needs to be resolved to identify Father's interests. The fact that the assets are on the unclaimed property list is not directly relevant, , but you might get entrepreneurial about it by locating the heirs of Friend and offering to help settle the inheritance for a share of the estate or a fee. But, someone is going to need to resolve the unprobated interests of GGA and Wife, and possibly of Friend.

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