My mother passed away in 1996 in the state of Texas. She left no will and had no assets to speak of. Initially, my siblings and I were trying to sue the hospital where she died for malpractice. The attorney in Texas had us file an heirship affidavit stating when she was married and divorced, and that there were only 3 remaining children alive. We had the document filed with the Van Zandt County office and notarized. This is the only legal document I have other than her death certificate. Shortly after her death, my sister started receiving dividend checks from Publix Supermarkets. At the time of my mothers passing, she had several stocks with Publix. She was retired from Publix, and we were not aware that she had any stocks. Since the checks were in her name, we never did anything with them. We just marked them as deceased and had the post office return to sender. We have recently contacted Publix to find out how we (the 3 remaining siblings) can claim these stocks. Since Publix is a privately owned company, we would have to resell the stocks back to Publix as none of us work for the company. Publix told us that we would have to hire an attorney to take possession of the stocks. Both my sister and I are on disability, my brother is having financial problems and none of us can afford an attorney. Is there a way around hiring one? With the documents we have, can we claim the stocks? We do not have the original stock nor do we know how many she owns. I do have her SSN and birth date. Any information you can help us with would be greatly appreciated. -- Denise from Miramar, Fla.
I would be very surprised if you had to have an attorney handle this for you. You cannot be the first and won't be the last family in this position. Not everyone can hire a lawyer, so I suspect there is a way to get this done without one. When you spoke to someone at Publix, did you ask whether your mother named a beneficiary for her stock? If she did, then that person would have the rights to the stock over any heirs. If she did not, then you have to prove to Publix that you and your siblings are the legal heirs to your mother's estate. Because your mother died without a will, she died "intestate." In Texas, if there is no spouse, the children inherit any property or money. After you filed the heirship affidavit, did you receive a copy of the written court order that you and your siblings are the legal heirs? You should contact the probate court and get a copy of the order. Contact the probate commissioner's office where the document was filed. Once you have this document, contact the Publix stock department, tell them you have an order and send them a copy. Since Publix is a private company, you will have to sell the stock back to the company. If you have further issues, contact your local legal aid clinic and see if they can assist you since you are on disability.
A previous member of an association used a restricted (members-only) email list to market a product for his own personal monetary gain and didn't have any permission to do so from the association board, the president of the association or the membership chair. Is this legal? -- Barbara from DeLand, Fla.
The facts of how this list was obtained would likely determine whether this behavior was illegal or merely obnoxious. If, for example, the association kept the list secret, and the member wrongfully accessed the association computers or physically stole the list, then this would be illegal. On the other hand, if an email went out to the entire membership, and this member then turned around and either replied to this email with his solicitation or recreated the list from the original email, then he may well have broken the membership rules, but likely did not break any laws in doing so.
(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev., who is the new host of CBS's daytime legal affairs program, "Swift Justice With Jackie Glass." Visit www.SwiftJustice.com for more information, local show times and to submit your legal questions to Jackie.)Copyright 2012 by Tribune Media Services, Inc.