What to do if my mother will not give me access to my late father’s financial records or assets?

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What to do if my mother will not give me access to my late father’s financial records or assets?

My father passed a week ago and didn’t have a Will. My mother, whom never married or lived together with, immediately took possession of all his property. This included his checkbook, credit card, house, car etc. I am my father’s only living family and am beneficiary on life insurance. She is not allowing me access to information on the insurance company so I can pay for his funeral. She changed his locks so the key that my father gave me doesn’t work. I can’t access his account so I can get money to bury my father. What do I do now? There’s nothing in writing making her executor of his estate

Asked on October 15, 2013 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

Brook Miscoski / Hurr Law Office PC

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In Texas, if an unmarried person dies without a will, but has descendants, his property should pass to his descendants.

In Texas, what the sole surving child would worry about (in terms of inheriting) is whether the deceased parent could be deemed to be married to the surviving parent. The result in that case would be that all of the community property (with some exceptions, all of the property obtained during the marriage), and a sizeable fraction of separate property (the rest), would pass to the surviving parent.

The fact that two individuals had a child together would not show a common law marriage in Texas . If you think about it, that makes sense--otherwise tons of people would be married due to out of wedlock births, and could be in void marriages with people they had affairs with.

Instead, whether a common law marriage (marriage without formalities) exists in Texas is determined based on factors such as whether the individuals have lived as married and described themselves as married. So, in Texas, when parents haven't married, haven't professed to be married to each other, and haven't even lived together, it's likely that the surviving child would still inherit the deceased parent's estate.

Additionally, in Texas a life insurance benefit isn't considered an inheritance, so it really wouldn't matter whether the child's parent was married. Even though there can be disputes, the general rule is that the named beneficiary gets the life insurance proceeds, if any.

Nathan Wagner / Law Office of Nathan Wagner

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You should file a petition in probate court (which is also sometimes called orphan's court) to be named administrator of his estate. The court can then issue an order to your mother to turn over his financial records and assets. You should get help from a local probate attorney. Move quickly, before she empties out his accounts and his home. 


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