What to do if my brother passed away and his lawyer said he left everything to his partner, who dies only days later?

UPDATED: Feb 28, 2013

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What to do if my brother passed away and his lawyer said he left everything to his partner, who dies only days later?

His partner died 15 days later. The lawyer said she would see if she could send me a copy of the Will, due to privacy issues. II haven’t gotent anything and that was weeks ago. Is that true that I can’t have a copy of the Will?

Asked on February 28, 2013 under Estate Planning, New Jersey


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In Florida, the person who has possession of the will must file it in court within 10 days of the testator's death.  If they fail to do this, a court action can force them to do it.  New Jersey may have a similar provision.

If you are a beneficiary of the will, you have a right to see it.  It sounds like you are not a beneficiary in the will.  In many states, heirs at law (the people who would inherit if there were no will) have a right to see the will.  You should consult a New Jersey probate lawyer to see what your rights are.

When I draft wills, I always recommend that my clients include a "survivorship clause" in their wills - this provides that their beneficiary (beneficiaries) must survive them by a certain number of days or they are deemed to have passed before them.  I like a 90 day survivor period for exactly the reason you are facing.  In your case, even a 30 day survivor period would have prevented the problem you may be facing.  Without this survivor period, the testator's entire estate passes to one beneficiary and then on to that beneficiary's heirs.  This is rarely what the testator would have wanted, and none of my clients have ever chosen to omit a survivor period.

Please consult your own probate lawyer to see what can be done.

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.

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