What are our rights as potential heirs if someone died without a Will?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What are our rights as potential heirs if someone died without a Will?

My husband’s grandmother died last year. She owned a cattle ranch and had nearly 100 acres of land, including a home. Shortly after her death her daughter, her only living child, moved onto the land with her husband. Later that year, approximately 7 months ago, her daughter also died. My husband and his sister were always told they would inherit the farm and land and that money had been set aside for my nephew and our 3 children. We have heard nothing on the matter. We had, I suppose now, wrongly assumed that we would be contacted by her attorney. I searched the local courts website and it appears the husband has filed a determination of heirship. How to pursue this and do we have hope if no Will is


Asked on April 6, 2017 under Estate Planning, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You pursue it by filing a lawsuit against the daughter's estate; in that lawsuit, you will seek "discovery" of whether there had been any wills (from the grandmother or the daughter) leaving the property to you, as well as of documentation of the property's ownership.  Suing is the only way to legally require documentation; in the lawsuit, you can also ask the court to issue an "injunction" (court order) preventing any transfers of the property until the issue of ownership, inheritence, etc. is resolved.
Note that if there were no wills, the property passes by intestate succession; in your state, there is a reasonable chance that your husband and sister in law will inherit at least a share or interest in the property and other assets IF your husband and his sister are children of the daughter who passed away--when a person dies "intestate" (no will) and has a spouse and children, the children will share among them, depending on the exact circumstances, half the estate (property not jointly titled with a living spouse), more or less.
However, if your husband and his sister are not the child of this woman, then they will not inherit anything if there is no will: the property went from grandmother to her only living child; and then it will pass (if there is no will) to her spouse and children, no one else.
That's why the issue of whether there is a will is critical. A will overrides intestate succession and determines who gets what. Note that only a proper, written validly sighed and witnessed will has an effect; promises or statements no put into a will are in no way enforceable.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption