California will re: relatives

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California will re: relatives

California: My husbands grandmother passed and left a will but her son will not show it to us. How do we find out if/when it goes to probate? Also, the house was supposed to be equally divided by my husband’s mother and uncle. But my husband’s mother passed away. Is my husband entitled to the property if his uncle cannot find or will not show her will? What if she has a trust? How do we find out? Will her lawyer notify family?

Asked on June 29, 2009 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As to your first question, if there was in fact a will it would have to be filed with the Probate Court Clerk in the county where the decedent resided, within 30 days of the death of the decedent.  So you need to check to see if it has been so filed.  If it has you can ask to see it and other documents related to the case; it is all a matter of public record at that point.  Additionally, state law requires that notices be sent to all of the heirs of the decedent, beneficiaries who are mentioned in the will and proposed executors.  The notice will state the date and time of the hearing and the courthouse where the case will be heard.

As for the house, you need to check the land records in the appropriate town hall.  Look at the deed, it will show how title to the house was held.  If it was as "joint tenants", that means that your mother-in-law's half of the house would automatically pass to the uncle (the remaining joint tenant).  If it was not so held, than it would be deemed to be ownership as "tenants-in-common".  If this was the case, then your mother-in-law's share passes as per instructed in her will.  If there is no will than she died "intestate".  Her share would pass pursuant to California's intestacy statute.  Basically, to the spouse, if there is one, and children.

As for a trust, California law requires that notice be given to trust beneficiaries and the decedent's heirs if all or part of the trust becomes irrevocable after the death.  The beneficiaries and heirs are then given an opportunity to request a copy of the trust.  Generally, the contents of a trust do not become a matter of public record, however, it might become public information is there is a court challenge to the trust, in which case a copy of the trust will be filed with the court.

Basically, this type of family situation can get tricky.  I think that you would be well advised to consult with an attorney concerning all of this.  You are obviously not getting the whole story here and you need to protect you rights before things go any further.  If you need help in finding one you can refer to www.AttorneyPages.com.

Best of luck.


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