What are our rights as potential heirs if someone died without a Will?

My husband’s grandmother died last year. She owned a cattle ranch and had nearly 100 acres of land, including a home. Shortly after her death her daughter, her only living child, moved onto the land with her husband. Later that year, approximately 7 months ago, her daughter also died. My husband and his sister were always told they would inherit the farm and land and that money had been set aside for my nephew and our 3 children. We have heard nothing on the matter. We had, I suppose now, wrongly assumed that we would be contacted by her attorney. I searched the local courts website and it appears the husband has filed a determination of heirship. How to pursue this and do we have hope if no Will is

found?

Asked on April 6, 2017 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You pursue it by filing a lawsuit against the daughter's estate; in that lawsuit, you will seek "discovery" of whether there had been any wills (from the grandmother or the daughter) leaving the property to you, as well as of documentation of the property's ownership.  Suing is the only way to legally require documentation; in the lawsuit, you can also ask the court to issue an "injunction" (court order) preventing any transfers of the property until the issue of ownership, inheritence, etc. is resolved.
Note that if there were no wills, the property passes by intestate succession; in your state, there is a reasonable chance that your husband and sister in law will inherit at least a share or interest in the property and other assets IF your husband and his sister are children of the daughter who passed away--when a person dies "intestate" (no will) and has a spouse and children, the children will share among them, depending on the exact circumstances, half the estate (property not jointly titled with a living spouse), more or less.
However, if your husband and his sister are not the child of this woman, then they will not inherit anything if there is no will: the property went from grandmother to her only living child; and then it will pass (if there is no will) to her spouse and children, no one else.
That's why the issue of whether there is a will is critical. A will overrides intestate succession and determines who gets what. Note that only a proper, written validly sighed and witnessed will has an effect; promises or statements no put into a will are in no way enforceable.


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