Is it legal to leave someone out as a person of interest in a probate matter?

My father was legally separated from his wife and died suddenly in my home. Then 2 months later his wife died in their home. My stepbrother told me that we would deal with this as a family and I was under the assumption we would be combining the probate process. I found out that probate paperwork has been filed for his mother and I have been left me out as a person of interest. Is this legal? What can I do?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Estate Planning, Vermont

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your losses.  Here is what has happened.  Your step brother really did nothing wrong here.  In fact, under the law, he had no choice.  And you need to obtain legal counsel to explain this in more detail to you.  Here is what I think happened based upon the facts as you have presented them here.  Your Father and Stepmother were separated but owned their house as joint tenants or tenants in common with rights of survivorship.  That means that when he passed away the house passed automatically  - called by operation of law - to her upon his death.  When she passed away it was part and parcel of her estate.  Now, I am assuming that you were not adopted by your step-mother during her lifetime, correct?  Then unless she had a Will that names you as a beneficiary you will not inherit part of her estate.  And you need to probate your Father's estate separately as well.  Please get help.  Good luck.


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