How to obtain a Will that someone is trying to withhold?

My roommate is having an issue acquiring a car that was supposed to be given to her after her grandmother’s death. Her grandmother promised my roommate around a year ago that her car would go to her. Her grandmother passed, a week after my roommate’s mother kicked her out of her house. Her mother immediately took the car after the grandmother’s death, and she has been fighting about it since. She’s almost positive that her grandmother wrote it in her Will. But when my roommate first inquired about the Will, her mother specifically said that there was one but outright refused to let her see it. Since then, we have threatened to call the police for support, and only after that threat did she start claiming that there is no Will. How can my roommatee get an opportunity to see the Will in a legal manner that her mother cannot fight?

Asked on November 1, 2011 under Estate Planning, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your roommate's loss and for her problems with her Mother.  First, if there is a Will and it has been probated (filed with the court for processing), then your roommate can go to the probate court in the county in which her grandmother resided at the time of her death and look at it.  It is a public record once it is filed.  If, however, her mother is not going to probate the Will she is still going to have to open some sort of estate proceeding (an intestacy proceeding as she died intestate - with out a Will) to transfer the assets in the estate.  If your roommate thinks that there is a Will then she is going to have to do a little investigation - like speaking with your grandmother's attorney or friends who may have executed the Will as witnesses - and try and prove its existence and contents.  No easy task.  She needs legal help here.  Maybe a letter from an attorney on her behalf is enough to open talks and negotiations with her mother (but could also make things worse).  Maybe there is a family member who can help intercede?  Good luck.

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