How doI find out if my mother had a Will and if it is in probate?

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How doI find out if my mother had a Will and if it is in probate?

My mother passed away last almost a year ago and my brother and sister were taking care of everything thing. I have not heard from them since she has passed so I emailed them. I asked them what was going on and if there was a Will. I got no answer.

Asked on November 8, 2010 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all you can ask friends or other family members if they know if such a document was drawn up and executed.  What I can tell you is that if one was executed and you did not receive any notice, then that means that it either hasn't yet been admitted for Probate yet or you were not listed as a beneficiary. However, if you think that one has been filed, then go to the Probate Court in the county where your mother resided at the time of her death.  Once filed it would be a matter of public record and at that point can be viewed by anyone (for a small fee).    

However, you should be aware that Probate may have been unnecessary if your mother had a small estate.  Property may have been transferred by affidavit or otherwise (this varies from state-to-state).  If this was the case, you still may have been entitled to something.  You may ned to consult with a probate attorney as to this. 

Note:  Also, exempt from probate is property titled in joint ownership, which automatically passes to the surviving owner.  In addition, life insurance payments and funds in an IRA, pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan bypass probate if the decedent has named beneficiaries other than the estate.  Those beneficiaries would receive the funds directly. 


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