If my father passed away and my brother is the executor, can we force him to give us a copy of the Will?

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If my father passed away and my brother is the executor, can we force him to give us a copy of the Will?

He doesn’t want to have it read yet. What is the time frame he has for having the Will read?

Asked on December 20, 2010 under Estate Planning, Louisiana

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, there is no legal requirement for a formal reading of a Will (that's only in the movies).  However, a Will must be entered into probate; the time frame for this can be from several months to several years or more (it depends on the specific jurisdiction). Once a probate is filed, there is however a requirement that a beneficiary or any interested party be notified of an inheritance. 

I assume that you were mentioned in your father's Will but you should be aware that a child can be disinheted.  Children typically have no right to inherit anything from their parents.  Although, as a general rule in such cases, there should be specific disinheritance language in the Will; most states do have laws to protect against an accidental disinheritance.  So even if there is a Will, if you're not in it, you are unfortunately not entitled to anything.  You should also be aware however that some assets can be transferred outside of probate.  For example, if your father had a small estate, property may have been transferred by affidavit or otherwise.  Additionally, some assets may have been held as "joint tenants with right of survivorship", in which case the other joint tenant would have received your father's share to property operation of law.  In addition, funds in an IRA, pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan by-pass probate and go directly to named beneficiaries (unless the beneficiary named was his estate).  The same holds true for any life insurance proceeds (and as to such proceeds, unless you were a named beneficiary.

Once the Will if filed, even if you're not a named beneficiary, you can still see a copy of the Will.  Simply go to the Probate Court in the county where he resided at the time of his death.  This is where it would be filed.  At that point it would be a matter of public record; accordingly it can be viewed by anyone (for a small fee).   

What you need to do now is to contact the clerk of the probate court and inquire just what the time-line for filing a Will after death is.  The court can then see that the executor (your brother) complies with all legally required deadlines.   


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