Barnegat, NJ asked in Estate Planning, Banking and Probate for Puerto Rico

Q: My Dad gave his sister authorization in his bank account. The day after my Dad passed my aunt took money from his acct.

All the arrangements had been prepaid by him and my sisters and I paid for the remaining items. After obtaining the Declaration of Heirs, we found out about the money withdrawn by my aunt when the money was not hers. I spoke to the bank and they said she was authorized on the account and had the ability to withdraw money but they said she should have notified the bank of his passing. After his burial, my sisters and I notified the bank of his passing and they froze the account until all the legal documentation is ready to be submitted to the bank’s probate department before they can release anything. My question is do I have a legal right as his heir to demand my aunt return the money she withdrew a day after he passed? If so, what type of attorney can assist with this process. Thank you.

1 Lawyer Answer
Rafael  Pagan-Colon
Rafael Pagan-Colon
  • Probate Lawyer
  • San Juan, PR
  • Licensed in Puerto Rico

A: Except that your aunt had a legitimate reason for taking the money out of the account (for which she'd need to present receipts), your late dad's estate is owner of those moneys until the probate processes are completed. Either by your father having left a will or going through the Puerto Rico courts for a Declaration of Heirs petition, you must establish you and your siblings as the legitimate and universal heirs of your father. If your father died after November 28, 2020, his widow will also be a legitimate heir.

With either the will or the declaration of heirs resolution on hand, an inventory of your dad's estate at the time of his passing must be prepared into an estate tax return, which must be filed with the Puerto Rico Treasury Department (Hacienda). This agency will issue a tax waiver on your father's estate, which should be presented to the bank(s) along with a copy of your dad's death certificate, of his will (and certificate from the Office of Notary Inspections stating that the will has not been revoked) or the court's resolution in the Declaration of Heirs, for the bank to release funds. At that point in time, you can sue your aunt for taking out funds that belong to the estate.

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