How can I find out if my deceased father had a Will?

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How can I find out if my deceased father had a Will?

And should it be entered through the probate court in the state where he died Finally, should his ex-wife taken all of his belongs before the Will (if there was one) was probated?

Asked on October 14, 2012 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If your father had a Will, it would have had to have been entered into probate. At that point, any beneficiaries would have been notified of their inheritance. If you were not so notified then possibly you weren't left anything. Children can be disinherited; they s a rule have no right to inherit anything from their parents. Alos, you should also be aware that some assets can be transferred outside of probate. If your father had a small estate, for example, property may have been transferred by affidavit or the like. Additionally, some assets may have been held as "joint tenants with right of survivorship", in which case the other joint tenant would have received his share of the property by operation of law.  Additionally, funds in an IRA, pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan by-pass probate and go directly to named beneficiaries. The same holds true for any life insurance proceeds.

That having been said, once a Will is filed anyone you can still see a copy whether or not you're a beneficiary; it is a matter pf public record. Simply go to the Probate Court in the county where your father was domiciled at the time of his death. This is where it would be filed.  

If your father died without a Will, then he is said to have died "intestate". Accordingly, the laws of the state where he died would control. In such a case, typically the estate is divided between a surviving spouse, if any, and all of the deceased's children (the exact distribution varies from state-to-state). Therefore your stepmother had no right to take any of his belongings prior to the close of probate.


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