Widow Can’t Access Inheritance or Late Husband’s Apartment

We often discuss the legal messiness that can arise when a person passes away without first getting their affairs in order. There can be disputes about how assets are divided, not to mention difficulty in establishing the assets or debts that actually exist.

However, a woman is dealing with a different kind of messiness that is keeping her from an $18 million inheritance she is to receive after the death of her husband. Not only is his home reportedly cluttered and full of clothes, financial paperwork and shopping-spree purchases, but the apartment is apparently off-limits to her because of a dispute with the landlord.

Sources say that the man who passed away was eccentric and very wealthy. However, he maintained a rent-controlled apartment while his wife lived in a different home elsewhere. After he passed away, the widow needed access to his home so that she could collect the significant amounts of paperwork he had in order to begin the process of settling his affairs and to claim her inheritance.

As upsetting of an experience as that can already be, the widow hit a major obstacle when the landlord changed the locks on the apartment and refused to allow her to enter.

The landlord says he will only allow the woman to enter the apartment if she commits to living there and pays back rent for the apartment. According to reports, the man died in December 2013 and the apartment has been vacant since; the landlord then changed the locks in May 2014.

Disputes like this can be extremely frustrating, especially because they often could have been prevented with some planning. In this case, control of the apartment (as well as rent payments) could have addressed in an estate plan; the paperwork that is locked in his home could have been recorded and filed to make it easier for his estate to be distributed.

When loved ones are left to try and decipher a deceased person’s wishes or are tasked with hunting down information on an estate, it can be especially taxing and frustrating. Whether you are left in this position or want to avoid leaving others in this position, it can be a wise decision to consult an attorney to better understand your options.

Source: USA Today, “Widow is locked out of apartment — and $18M inheritance,” Matthew Diebel, Sept. 9, 2014