How can I find out if my Father had a will.

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How can I find out if my Father had a will.

My Father just passed away, I don’t know if he had a will and my stepmother says he didn’t. What happens to his assets? He has valuable cars prior to his wedding, what rights do I have to obtain them and how can I find out if he had a trust or will? How does and when does Probate work in California. Should I seek advice from a attorney? what kind?

Thanks Jeff

Asked on September 15, 2016 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is almost no way to see if he truly had a will or not, if he did not tell you had one, leave you a copy, etc.--wills don't need to be filed with the courts before the testator's (person making the will) death, and are often just kept in file cabinets, safe deposit boxes, etc. If he had a will and left it with the stepmother and she lost or destroyed it, unless you knew his long-term lawyer or accountant (if he any) and they knew of a will, there's probably know way to know for sure.
If there is no will, which includes there *possibly* being a will, but no one can find it (a will that can't be found may as well not exist), the property will pass by intestate succession, which lays out the rules for who gets what when there is no will. In your state, that means that the stepmother gets *all* of the community property (basically, money and property acquired during marriae) and around 1/2 of his separate property (basically, what he had pre-marriage). Since what he had pre-marriage seems pretty substantial (e.g. valuable cars), it would be worth your while to retain a probate attorney to make sure you get what is coming to you. Good luck.


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