Howcan children of a deceased parent find out if they were left anything?

UPDATED: Dec 29, 2010

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Howcan children of a deceased parent find out if they were left anything?

My father died 5 years ago. My brother received a lot of money but my twin sister and I did not get a thing. My father and I were very close and he was an extreamly fair man. When he died my brother took over. However, my father would not leave any inheritance in the decision of my brother. He would divide it fairly among us all. I smell foul play. What do I do; can I find out on-line any record of his Will?

Asked on December 29, 2010 under Estate Planning, Oregon


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

First of all, after so long a period of time you may be unable to pursue any legal action here.  However, I would at least at this point consult with a probate attorney as to your situation.

By way of general information, if there was in fact a Will, it would have had to have been entered into probate. At that point, any beneficiaries should have been notified of their inheritance.  If you were not so notified then possibly you weren't left anything. Children can be disinherited; typically they have no right to inherit anything from their parents (although, as a general rule, there should be specific disinheritance language in the Will).  You should also be aware 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 the like.  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.  The same holds true for any life insurance proceeds.

That having been said, once the Will is filed you can still see a copy of the Will whether or not you're a beneficiary; it is a matter pf public record.  Simply go to the Probate Court in the county where your father was domiciled at the time of his death.  This is where it would be filed.  Possibly, the jurisdiction in question also has on-line access; you would have to contact the court directly to find out.  

Note:  If your father died without a Will, then he is said to have died "intestate".  Accordingly, the laws of the state where he died would control.  Typically in such a case, the estate is divided between a surviving spouse, if any, and all of the deceased's children. 

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 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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