How do I find out if my grandmother left a will?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How do I find out if my grandmother left a will?

My mother is currently incarcerated and while in prison her mother passed away. My mother is certain that my grandmother had life insurance policy and a Will. What we need to know is, how do we find out if she did have a Will and if my mother was left anything. My grandfather states there was no Will or insurance but we are certain my grandmother did have them. How do we go about finding out and, since my mother in incarcerated, does my grandfather have any right to my mother’s estate?

Asked on January 8, 2017 under Estate Planning, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) Wills do not need to be registered or filed in advance: they may be, but it's required. And life insurance does not need to be registered or filed at all. What this means is that there is no central listing or office or website where you can do to find out if there is a will or life insurance policy. A will, if it exists, might be only in the safe deposit box or home of the person who made it; a life insurance policy might exist only in the same place(s) and also in the files of the individual insurance company which sold the policy. 
Therefore, unless you happen to find the will or policy, you can't know for sure if there is one. If your grandfather was your grandmother's spouse (they were married when she passed), you can't search her belongings or home without his permission, so if he says there is no will or policy, you have to take that at its face value unless you have information to the contrary. Other things you could try include contacting her lawyer or accountant, if she had one--they may know and if they do, may tell you. You can contact the main insurance companies and ask--you might get information that way. But that's about all you can do.
2) You ask about whether your grandfather has any right to your "mother's estate" because she is incarcerated. Your mother is still alive, so she has no estate and he only has a right to any of her assets if she gave him a POA giving him access or control over them.
If you meant your *grandmother's* estate, if he was married to your grandmother when she passed, then if there was no will, it is almost certainly become his as the surviving spouse.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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