My boss passed. I was his nurse 10+yrs. He left items with me trusting I'd get them to rightful persons. How can I handle this properly?

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A handful of lawyers and conflicting wills have delayed determining who the executor is. I had a phone call from lawyers secretary just yesterday saying I could drop everything off to them. When I asked for a document stating that an official executor had been determined, I never heard back from them. I may mention that the wife is friends with the lawyers and that she is a bad alcoholic. I am the only one who has codes to his business, company checkbooks etc. Millions of dollars are at stake. I'm now receiving threatening phone calls demanding "I hand over items if I know what's best for me or it won't be pretty". Can I safely give all I have to the dept of aging and have them take care of this properly?

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Wow - what a conflicting and nasty situation this has become! Your boss was apparently a very poor planner to have created this situation, unless some of the wills are fraudulent, and that's a possibility given the money involved.

So...here are some suggestions.

1. Are any of these items small enough that they can stored in a bank vault? If so, I could consider that; get them off the premises, through a commercial company with police escort if possible (and it probably wouldn't be), stored under lock and key, and away from you. Video and itemize the items; keep the list and be prepared to file it, or initiate court action (see no. 12 below).

This does run the risk of accusation that you're acting independently, beyond the scope of whatever authority your boss granted you as safekeeper of the items.

However, if they're stored in the house with the alcoholic wife, I wouldn't even try to move them for secure storage as it could be interpreted that you're confiscating them. In fact, I'd stay away from them, far, far away.

2. Assuming in-house counsel isn't involved in the will contest, ask him/her to co-sign on any safety deposit account for the contested items; there should never be just one person in this kind of situation.

2. Do you have names of the various lawyers involved? If so, notify them collectively in one letter (sent certified, receipt requested) that the items have been secured for safety and will be released when they have concurred on an executor, as well as the specific effective version of the will (and any Codicils), or pursuant to Court order.

In the meantime, if they call, advise them that your own counsel has advised you not to discuss the situation. And DO report any threats!

If you don't know names of all of the attorneys involved, send to the ones you know of and advise them that they should contact any not listed in the letter, so that all of the attorneys representing contesting parties can be notified.

Put the burden on them; they probably know better than you who's representing who.

3. Are these items personal or business related?

4. As to the specific effective version of a will, it has to be the most recent, and has to rescind all other wills and codicils. Can you share any more information about the various wills? Is there any indication that any are forgeries? Was your boss confused at any stage during which you cared for him, such that he could have made wills without full cognizance of what he was doing?

5. Probably legal action needs to be taken by the feuders to get a court to review and determine which is the effective Will, and the associated Executor/trix. Is there discussion of this...yet?

6. Notwithstanding different versions of the Will, there can also be a legitimate question as to the list of recipients. There are specific requirements for conveyance intents separate from Wills. They have to be dated and should be witnessed. In other words, someone can decide he/she wants to update a separate Memorandum of distribution, and do so. If properly prepared, it is effective.

If there are Wills that supercede them, the question arises whether or not your boss wanted any separate memo to be guiding through the more recent version of the Will, or if he intended the Will to be the distribution guideline.

These side memos can be very helpful; if additional gifts are identified, they can be addressed w/o doing a Codicil. But when there are contested versions of a will, the question arises as to intent of the separate memo of distribution.

7. I wouldn't involve any aging department; getting the government involved would probably only complicate matters, and I don't think any governmental entity outside of a Probate, or possibly Circuit, court, would have jurisdiction anyway.

You could file a request for determinative action yourself, seeking not only injunctive relief (i.e., court take over the items and stop the threats) but determination of the actual effective Will; that would take you out of the equation.

8. I would seriously consider retaining counsel of my own, if only for protection. And ask about injunctive relief (such as a TRO - Temporary Restraining Order) against anyone threatening you.

9. Another option if there's been no case filed yet in court, is to ask your own attorney to petition the court to designate a management company to hold the assets in a secure place until disposition is determined by the court which will is the governing one. Be sure to ask for reimbursement for court filing fees and court costs.

10. Not to challenge anyone else's suggestion, but company "in-house" counsel are often less exposed to these kinds of disputes; their purview is generally more corporate oriented. I'm not sure one would be comfortable, or even know how to handle this kind of contested situation.

In addition, if this is a publicly held company, there may be some question on the part of the stockholders whether in-house counsel's involvement is appropriate.

Lawyers in competitive practice (in my experience) often looked down on "9-5 corporate attorneys" and saw them as somewhat "wimpy" compared to the stalwarts of the legal profession, especially those who could brag about billing several hundred hours monthly, skipping meals, showering and living at their offices (big city law firms, especially). They might see an in-house attorney as "fish bait" and ignore him or her.

11. I don't recall working on many contested probate matters, but what I think will happen is that one or other of the heirs will file suit to have the effective Will determined. That's probably the only to stop the squabbling.

12. You could also file suit in Probate Court asking to be relieved of your obligation, asking that the Court confiscate and secure the items in question, and designate a secure facility in which to store them. Again, that takes you out of the equation.

I think any loyalty to your boss is superceded by your own safety, as well as the uncompromising position which he has created.

Option 12 would be my choice.
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Reply to GardenArtist
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Whomever was your BOSS's lawyer (or company's law firm), THAT is who I'd go to with this. Get it off your back asap.
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Reply to XenaJada
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I would contact the police and see what they say to do. Or contact the company lawyer, that is a good idea too.
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Reply to blannie
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I am not sure here but start recording on paper your calls and notes form the calls. You are in a precarious position. Can you request to those callers that they need to hand you a court order just in case in order or his legal papers to protect the business side?
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Reply to MACinCT
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Who are the "rightful persons" your late employer wanted these items to go to?

Your boss placed you in a compromising position and it is not fair.

You had this phone call only yesterday demanding the items. You have had no confirmation from any authority you recognise that the lawyers who called you have any right to the items. You cannot comply with their request without it. For advice, you could call whichever court deals with probate in your area - look online for contact information.

Call the police about the threats.

Did your boss's business not have its own company lawyer? Could you consult them about what to do, and possibly hand over the items for safekeeping to them?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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