Q: Can the probate court have the authority to "claw" back funds improperly distributed prior to probate?
My brother who had power of attorney and signs on my Dad's accounts prior to his death "just so happened" to be the sole beneficiary on both "passbook savings" accounts, checking accounts. He already distributed that money prior to first scheduled probate hearing without my knowledge approx $90,000. I understand once distributed it doesn't show up in the inventory list. My Dad had a will with both of us sharing 50/50. Does the will even enter into this scenario? Do I have to litigate that issue outside probate or can I demand written proof from the probate court or weigh in from the judge as to fairness to investigate that issue? Connecticut law
A: It is difficult to get a probate court to exercise jurisdiction over accounts passing by way of beneficiary designation. Such assets are technically "non-probate" assets. A separate action can, however, be brought in Superior Court for undue influence or lack of capacity in transferring assets into the passbook accounts. This requires evidence of improper actions surrounding the actual the transfer. The money is gone and bank contract is implicated. Recovery is thus difficult, absent solid evidence of undue influence with respect to the accounts.
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