Is there a way to find out if you have been named in a will w/o going through the trustee?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Is there a way to find out if you have been named in a will w/o going through the trustee?

My husbands father passed away in November 2018, his sister is the trustee. When
my husband finally brought up the will, she told him that he wasnt named in the
will. We dont believe that for a second but she refuses to let him see the will.
Its obvious that she is never going to give him any Information, he doesnt even
know the name of his fathers attorney. Is there any way that he can find out the
information that he needs without having to confront his sister?

Asked on August 8, 2019 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If the will has been filed for probate, it will have been submitted to the probate court and should therefore be accessible as a public document. But if the will has not been filed (for example, the sister is simply herself keeping or selling her father's assets without going through the probate court, because the will would distribute assets to other people, like your husband, and she does not want to do that) then there will be no public record of it. The only way to see it would be to file a legal challenge in which your husband alleges that based on "information and belief," he believes that he was named in his father's will and therefore that his sister's claims to the contrary are false. In the legal action, there will be an opportunity to use legal techniques called "discovery" (e.g. written interrogatories or questions; document production requests) to get and see the will. The only problem is that you have to sue first, before knowing for certain that you are in the will and actually have grounds to sue. 
This kind of legal action (commonly called an action "for an accounting") can be very difficult to laypeople (nonlawyers) to bring; your husband may wish to consult with a probate attorney to better understand this option, and to help him, if he wishes to pursue it.

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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