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Old will can be contested if last one was destroyed

When my 70-year-old sister died, she left a will that excluded all close relatives and left her money to two charities. I had been her financial adviser since her husband died and told her that I wanted no part in her will. I am financially secure. Her death was not a surprise, but her will was!

A brother-in-law who lived close to her admitted that he entered her home several weeks before she died, searched and found her will. He was so angry to find that his wife was left out of the will that he waited until the doctor put my sister into the hospital and then confronted her with his knowledge of the will's contents.

He ordered her to destroy the will at once. When she refused, he threatened her with bodily harm.

He admitted all this after she died and when asked why he did such a terrible thing, he said, "I wasn't going to let her leave everything to charities." He claimed he had a right to protect his wife's interests.

About a quarter of the estate was presented for official certification, represented by a younger brother. The largest part, about $100,000 worth of certificates of deposit, ended up in the hands of this brother-in-law and has not been accounted for.

Because my sister destroyed her will under threat of bodily harm, do these people legally own the house and cars they bought with her money?

I believe the two charities still own the entire estate. How do the probate laws protect innocent people in cases like this?

E.A.B., Inverness

Response: Any interested person, including you, can contest a will. Interested persons include beneficiaries of a prior will (such as charities) and any heirs at law that would normally include immediate family members.

Legal experts at the St. Petersburg Bar Association say that if the current will is found to be a result of fraud or undue influence, either the entire will or certain portions of it may be found to be ineffective. In that case, a prior will that has been superseded does not usually revive. However, there are some cases that indicate that a prior will may be revived at least in part under certain circumstances.

If what you say is true, your late sister certainly would want you to represent her interests and see that her wishes are carried out.

Doll order for grandchildren reshipped

I ordered two dolls last April from Whitney Resources. My $9 check was cashed on May 4, but I have not yet received my order.

The dolls were supposed to be gifts for my grandchildren in Indianapolis. Can you get them for me?


Response: Whitney Resources says they reshipped the dolls to you on Aug. 14. Let us know if you or your grandchildren got them.

Sweepstakes "winner' awaits prize

How long does it take a sweepstakes to pay off the winners they announced on July 6?

I won $25,000. I was notified through a company, Carter & Van Peel. The announcement was enclosed with an order blank for some kind of perfume, modestly priced, so I sent them a small $10 order and they are supposed to send me my prize money. I never heard from the company, and that was four weeks ago.

M.C., Inverness

Response: Get out your magnifying glass and read the fine print. Those sweepstakes notices make everyone think they are grand-prize winners, but somewhere in the fine print you will be described as a "finalist" _ along with the million or so other people who received the same mailing.

The only winner here is Carter & Van Peel. They have your $10. With a little luck you may get your perfume.

Coin rebate only works on first buy

I hope you can help me get a $25 rebate from Chattanooga Coin Investments. I am expecting this for coins I bought and it is 10 weeks already.

I need this money because I'm on Social Security.

Albert Huther

Response: According to Chattanooga, your complaint is totally unfounded. The rebate was an introductory offer for new clients, but you already had ordered under another introductory offer so you were not eligible. If you will return the Kookaburra coins, they will refund the purchase price.