Mother’s Will

Mother’s Will

How can I find out if my mother's will has been put into probate? My sister and I do not communicate and she is the executor. My mother passed away on March 12, 2005. My mother lived in State A with my sister and I live in State B.


In many states (sorry we cannot be state specific) there is a process requiring that next of kin be notified of the probate of the will. Obviously you did not get notice.

Many estate litigation matters occur because one family member, your sister in this case, is not keeping another informed, you. Unfortunate and not a good sign.

Absent that, if you know the county your mother lived in wills are generally a matter of public record you can contact the court that deals with wills in that county (could be called Probate Court, Surrogate's Court, Orphan's Court, etc.) and ask for a copy of the will. You'd probably be best off getting a local lawyer to handle this for you since you live out of state. You could try calling the court first to see if you can handle it by phone/mail, but this is not always possible, and even if it is it might be ineffecient.

There might a real sense of urgency for you to act quickly in that some legal remedies change or become unavailable with time. You don't want to miss these deadlines, and they are different in every jurisdiction (state). Again, sorry to say, but you really need to get a local attorney in the area where your mother lived. If you do get a probate/estate specialist, you'll get a better result.

The concerns may be worse. If your sister is trying to maximize your inheritance and minimize your's she might quickly handle many estate matters and make distributions to herself so that she can spend, tie up or give away the assets making it harder (perhaps impossible) for you to identify or reach what might have been your inheritance. For example, if your mother had jewelry, silver, coin collection, etc. can you ever prove what was there and might now be gone?

It might even be worse. In many states, especially California and Florida, but its quite common all over the country, many people use revocable living trusts to avoid the probate process. If your mother did this, your sister may never have filed a will and might have simply distributed all assets to herself as successor trustee.

It can get even worse then that. If your sister was really devious, she might have had a durable power of attorney and changed ownership of assets while your mother was alive (e.g., make all assets joint with her and mom so on mom's death all assets transfer automatically to sister).

Lots of bad stuff could have been or could still be happening. Or, your sister may be totally above board and nothing may have happened. But the best way to protect whatever is yours is immediately hire a probate/estate attorney to try to pursue what might be yours. This is not inexpensive, and might not result in much for you if your sister was devious. Tough situation but move fast to protect what you can with qualified legal guidance in that state.

And if you can, always keep an open mind to the possibility that nothing wrong was or will be done. If its possible to restore your relationship with your sister that would be admirable too. What you find out might determine that for you.

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