From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My brother has had money problems his whole life. At various times my parents lent him money and he made a few efforts to repay, but he owed most of it still at their deaths. As executor I brought these loans up and he now says they were gifts, not loans. We split the estate equally, but if he gets to say these were gifts he will have ended up with much more money than I, which is unfair. What can I do?
As the executor you are tasked with gathering the estate assets. Loans are assets, so you do have the right to gather information to prove the validity of the loans. As executor you also have the right to hire professionals to assist you, such as accountants and attorneys.
It is time for you to hire a professional to review the evidence and advise you. You could take the position that these are loans and reduce his share of the estate, but if he refuses to sign a release he will be free in the future to file a petition forcing you to account and demanding a larger share of the estate. It is best to settle this matter now.
Your attorney can review all the paperwork, cancelled checks, and those payments you described to advise you if you have the documentation to support the position that the exchanges were loans. If so, your attorney can then prepare a formal accounting that lists the loans as an asset and formally divides the estate giving your brother the loans as a portion of his inheritance. Your brother may object, but you will then be prepared to present your case to the judge.
If you have any other questions about Probate, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.