How to handle Will and probate?

UPDATED: Jan 3, 2011

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How to handle Will and probate?

My father-in-law just passed away and left everything to my husband via a handwritten Will. He doesn’t have any assets that we know of, only a co-op condo which is pretty worthless ($7,000). Also, he had 1 insurance policy worth $10,000 that barely covers the costs of the funeral expenses. Is my husband now responsible for his debt? How do we find out if he had anything else? Does he get anything?

Asked on January 3, 2011 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

1) A decedent's heirs are not responsible for his debts (if any). However, the decedent's estate may be--that is, many debts will be paid (as much as possible, at least) out of the assets the decedent is leaving behind before the balance are distributed to heirs.

2) The will may or may not be effective--if wills are not filled out correctly, they may not be enforced. However, since the will purports to leave everything to your husband, there's probably no reason to challenge it.

3) If you think the father-in-law may have had other assets, speak with a trusts and estate's attorney in your area (one who knows the local courts and banks). He or she would be your best source for advice and assistance in trying to determine if there are other assets. If there are, under the will your husband would get them; and even if the will were invalid, if there's  no surviving spouse and you husband is the only surviving child, he'd get them, too. Of course, if you don't have credible grounds for thinking there is more somewhere, it may not be worth expending any effort on finding them.

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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