What can I do if after my mother’s death, my stepfather has withheld personal items saying that the Will stated he got everything?

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What can I do if after my mother’s death, my stepfather has withheld personal items saying that the Will stated he got everything?

How do I determine if the Will they had drawn up was ever validated/signed?Does a Will have to be probated to be legal? If I want to question his actions, will I need a lawyer?

Asked on December 15, 2014 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the situation that has arisen.  If you do not believe your step father - and you do seem to have cause for concern - then you will need to get some help here and maybe an attorney is a good idea at some point.  But you can do a little bit of the work yourself.  First, if there were a Will and it was filed with a Petition for Probate you should have gotten a copy.  So I am thinking that nothing was started.  You can check with the Probate court in the county in which your Mother resided at the time of her death.  If nothing is on file you can force your step father's hand and file a Petition to be appointed as Administrator as if she died with out a Will. If there is a Will then he will have to come forth to fight your petition with the Will.  At that point in time you can see if it is valid and if you do not believe that it is you can challenge it in court.  Double check the intestacy statute in PA to see how things are divided with out a Will.  Anything jointly held with your step father was his automatically at the time of your Mother's death.  Good luck.


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