Did my father have a Will?

My father died 8 years ago. My stepmother lied to me and sold the family farm for 1.2 million dollars. have never even heard the word Will mentioned once. I’d like to have the peace of mind to read whatever my father did or did not leave behind.

Asked on September 19, 2016 under Estate Planning, Ohio


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If there is in fact a Will, it may have be entered into probate. If it has, been, then any listed beneficiaries should have been notified of their inheritance. If you were not so notified, then perhaps you were not left anything. The fact is that under the law adult children can be disinherited; a child has no automatic inheritance rights in a parent's Will. Also, once the Will is filed you can see a copy of it whether or not you're a beneficiary since it then becomes a matter of public record (just go to the probate court in the county in which your father was domiciled at the time of his death and check there). Further, as a child of the deceased you are someone who would inherit in the event that they died without a Will, therefore you are an "interested party" and accordingly can demand to see the Will to make sure that one actually exists.
That all having been said, uou should be aware that some assets can be transferred outside of probate. So, for example, if your father had a small estate, property may have been transferred by affidavit. Additionally, assets may have been held as "joint tenants with right of survivorship", which means that the other joint tenant would have received your father's share of property upon his death. Further, funds in an IRA, pension plan, IRA, 401(k), etc. also by-pass probate and go directly to the named beneficiaries. The same holds true for life insurance proceeds.   If it turns out that your father died without a Will, then he died "intestate", accordingly sthe laws of the state where he died would control. In such a case, typically the estate is divided between a surviving spouse, if any, and the children of the deceased. 

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