What should we do if my step-mother stopped all communications with us after our father died and we want to speak with her regarding his land? 24 Answers as of October 18, 2012

My dad was discussing this with me saying he wanted to get all of his kids together regarding his property, and that he was speaking with an attorney. He ended this by telling me he would keep me posted. Unfortunately, he passed so I am not sure if he did this. At his funeral, his wife did not acknowledge his children very much; it was all about my stepmother and her child from a previous relationship. This had us worried, that if he did not put his wishes in writing, that she may not do the right thing.

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James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law
James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law | James Oberholtzer
You are right to be worried. You should check the recorded title for the land and see whose name was on it. You should also ask if there was a Will. If you have an idea who your father's attorney was, you can contact him or her and ask if there was a Will. Move immediately, now. Time is against you.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 10/18/2012
Victor Varga | Victor Varga
If he didn't put his wishes in writing, you are out of luck.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 10/18/2012
The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.
The Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A. | Laurie E. Ohall
If he owned the property jointly with your step-mother, then the property belongs to her. You should look online at the property appraiser's records to see whose name the property is in. If it was solely his name, then an estate will need to be opened and your stepmother will be entitled to a portion and you and your siblings will be entitled to a portion. If a probate is necessary, you will need to seek out an attorney to help handle this for you.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 10/18/2012
Law Offices of Gerald A. Bagazinski
Law Offices of Gerald A. Bagazinski | Gerald A. Bagazinski
This is a tricky situation. Even if your father made a will she has certain rights as surviving spouse. If he made a deed without her knowledge, she has a dower interest. The only thing you can do is research title to the land and see if she files for probate.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 10/18/2012
Law Office of Pamela Braynon | Pamela Y. Braynon
The best that I can say in this case is to consult an attorney that deals with probate. The attorney will be able to determine if an estate has been established to probate in the county where your father died and/or lived at the time of his death. All interested persons (that would include you and your siblings) must be given notice once an estate is established. Granted your stepmother may not let her attorney know that your father had children that are not hers and you may be omitted in granting notice especially if he was unable to leave a will. If no will was left Florida statutes would be the determinant of who gets what in your dad's estate. My best advice would be to consult a probate attorney immediately.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 10/18/2012
    Law Offices of Terrell Monks
    Law Offices of Terrell Monks | Terrell Monks
    You can probably not force his spouse to talk to you, but in Oklahoma you could petition to open a probate for him and get an Order directing her to provide your father's will to the court. If he has completed an estate plan, that may be the way to find out what it says.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 10/18/2012
    Martinson & Beason, PC
    Martinson & Beason, PC | Douglas C Martinson II
    If you father didn't have a will, then you can file for an Administration of the estate. Your step-mother (as the surviving spouse) has priority to file the estate for the first 45 days. After 45 days, you or your siblings would have priority to file. You could file before, however, she could come in and file to be appointed over you or your siblings. This does assume that you or your siblings live in Alabama, as an Administrator must live in the state. If your father did not have a will, your stepmother will get ? of the estate and the other ? will be divided amongst you and any other children of your father (Blood Children). If your father has a will, it will determine who is the Executor and where the property goes. You should also be aware that any property or bank accounts held as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS) will pass outside the estate or the will and go to whoever is named on the account or deed. Typically, husbands and wives own property this way. Also, the surviving spouse is able to get the first $15,500 of the estate as well. ______________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________ Douglas C. Martinson, II, Esq. Martinson & Beason, P.C. 115 North Side Square Huntsville, Alabama 35801-4822 256-533-1667 256-533-1696 Fax dougii@martinsonandbeason.com www.martinsonandbeason.com Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/martinsonandbeason
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 10/18/2012
    Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
    You probably want to schedule an appointment with a local probate attorney. If any of the property was owned by your father prior to his marriage to your step-mother, it is likely his separate property and should be probated to determine ownership rights.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/18/2012
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC
    THE BROOME LAW FIRM, LLC | Barry D. Broome
    His estate must pass through Probate to have legal title to any assets of his unless he changed the title to his property to include his new wife. If he had a Last Will & Testament then the property will be in Probate and you must be notified of its existence. If she has not filed an action in Probate then you can do it yourself. If your father had a Will it must be probated.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 10/18/2012
    Ben T. Liu Law Office
    Ben T. Liu Law Office | Ben T. Liu
    If the land is in your father's name and your step mom's name as husband and wife, she will get the land. Anything else in both names as husband and wife or by the entire-ties, your step mom will get upon your father's death. You may not be able to do much if your dad did not leave a will or trust leaving something to you. If the estate is large enough, you may get something if there is no will or trust at all. But if the will or trust leaves nothing to you, you will most likely get nothing. If your father had a will, it will be probated and you should receive notice. Or if there was no will or trust and probate is necessary, you should receive notice. But if there is only a trust, I hope your step mom will be honest with you if she is the trustee. Otherwise you will need a good attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/18/2012
    Law Offices of Pamela R. Lawson | Pamela R. Lawson, Esq.
    First you need to find out if there was a will. If there was, it is suppose to be deposited with the court clerk within 30 days of the date of death. If your father was talking with an attorney he may have a Trust as well as a will. At any rate if your father died in Nevada and if he had any property in his name alone, it will require either a probate or some other administration through the court depending upon how much property he had. If your father died without a will, then his separate property will be be distributed 2/3's to the kids if there is more than one. Community property, unless your father provided otherwise in a will, goes to his wife. I would advise retaining an attorney to ascertain if there is a will not and if there is any separate property. If you do not want to retain an attorney at this time, write to your mother in law and ask the questions regarding the existence of a will and separate property.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Irsfeld, Irsfeld & Younger LLP | Norman H. Green
    First Step is to find out who owns the land. Get a property profile, a copy of the most recent deed or a title report. How long ago did he die? If he left a will or trust, you are entitled to a copy.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Mark Bagula
    Mark Bagula | Mark Bagula
    I would think the first step would be to request any will or trust documents from your mother in law, and if you know the attorney, from the attorney. Beneficiaries are entitled to such documents.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
    Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
    If he had a will, the will controls. If he didn't have a will, then his children and his wife will split his estate 50/50. There are other wrinkles.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C.
    O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C. | Sean P. O'Keefe
    In Maryland, you may want to check for the estate file at your county's Register of Wills office, if an estate has been opened, to see what estate assets have been inventoried and who is the personal representative for the estate (who would be in charge of the land until distribution). Otherwise, you may need to search the land records for the title to the real property (land), to see if title passed by operation of law to someone(s) such as your stepmother.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    Obviously, if you CAN communicate openly with your stepmother, this would be best. Depending on how the assets were titled, your father may or may not have been able to do anything about this. If there is a Will, your stepmother is supposed to provide it to the probate court, whether an estate needs to be open or not. Whether the Will has any effect or not depends on title. If all of the assets were jointly held by the spouses, then upon your father's death, your stepmother owns everything. Even if there was a Will saying that she only got half, the Will would not apply to the assets. So if you cannot speak with your stepmother about this, your first step should be to check on how the assets are titled. You can often do this online, at least with regard to real estate. If you find that the property is titled in joint names, which is what is normally the case, then you would not be entitled to anything, at this time. If there are personal items that belonged to your father, that your stepmother would not have any use for any longer, you might delicately ask her if she would allow you to have those items. Assuming that your father and stepmother DID set up an estate plan, it is possible that all of the children Will split the estate, upon the death of your stepmother. Sometimes, these arrangements can be changed. If you have...and maintain...a close relationship with your stepmother, then she would have no reason to do so. Best of luck to you!
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Richard M. Gee, a PC
    Richard M. Gee, a PC | Richard M. Gee
    Hire an attorney. If your father had no will to the contrary, you and your siblings have rights to your father's estate that will most likely need to be resolved in a formal probate proceeding.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    Check the ownership of the land. If it is held as a joint tenancy with your step mom it passed to her by operation of law regardless of what his Will says, if it is solely in his name, you should probably ask her about it. You may want to consult an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    Advice is to get yourself a probate attorney to file a petition to probate the title to the land into your names; if you know the attorney for your father, call him and determine if your father created a trust or a will; and determine who was named the beneficiaries of the land. Sounds like there may be some litigation brewing here. Also, go to the recorder's office of your county to determine who is on title to the land. A lot of what I am suggesting can be accomplished online re the research needed here. There may be other assets out there such as accounts, cd's, life insurance, etc. Time is of the essence. This is urgent.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Neil J. Lehto, Esq.
    Neil J. Lehto, Esq. | Neil J. Lehto
    Relying on your step-mother to do the right thing simply means nothing in the administration of your father's estate. You should immediately determine if he had a will and if he put your step-mother on his property. Ask her. If she is not forthcoming, without a will, she is a natural heir entitled to administer and receive the bulk of his estate. Only next in line are his children. Searching the title records for his property will be a lot easier with her cooperation.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Whiteford, Taylor, & Preston | Edwin Fee
    The land will pass either according to: 1) the deed, if for example, it provided for joint ownership or a life estate; 2) your father's will, if he had one; or 3) the intestate statute, if your father didn't have a will. Deeds are public records; so you can get a copy of the deed to see if the property passes according to the deed. A will becomes a public record after it is filed with the Register of Wills; so you would be able to see the terms of a will. Under the intestate statute, children would be entitled to a portion of the estate.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Law Offices of R. Christine Brown | R. Christine Brown
    Your question specially refers to "land" so my response is pertaining only to real property. You need to see how your father held title to the land, so you will need to pull a copy of the deed to the property. If the deed shows that the property is held in "joint tenancy" or "community property with rights of survivorship" with his wife, then the property belongs to his wife. This is true regardless of what his Will says. If the property is in your father's name alone or as "tenants in common" also called "tenancy in common" with another person or other persons (which could include your step-mother), then you should file a Petition for Probate so that you can be appointed the Administrator of his estate. Only a probate court can determine what percentage of your father's share belongs to you, your siblings, and your step-mother. There may be other issues the probate court needs to decide as well. If you file a Petition for Probate (and there is a Will) then your step-mother will produce it and file it with the probate court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Hamblin Law Office | Sally Hamblin
    Unfortunately, if he did not put his wishes in writing via a new deed or a will or codocil, then you have little or no chance to acquire any property. If she does not want to talk nobody can make her. Sorry but without a writing or video by your father expressing his wishes for his kids to have the land the step- mother will get it.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2012
    Thompson Ostler & Olsen dba Franchise Business Law Group | Brooke Ashton
    Under Utah law, you may have rights to some of your father's estate. If he died intestate (meaning without a will), then his children would get part of his estate and his spouse would get part of his estate. You can file to be the personal representative for your father's estate. This will force your step-mother to either produce a will or ensure that the estate is properly administered.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 10/17/2012
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