I am trying to figure out where to begin after my father recently passed away in March. My father had a will. But the will is no where to be found now. My Step Mother admits going to the Safety deposit Box as soon as my dad had a stroke 7 years ago. She says the box was empty. I find this hard to believe because right after the stroke she was screaming at me that my dad had left me everything! My father had always told me that he was leaving me everything just as she had previously said. I believe that things changed once my dad had the stroke. His wife became his Power of Attorney. She sold a house that he only had in his name. She claims that she is accountable to the Court for this money and that she used most of the money for his at home health care. How can I find out what amount of money and assets that my dad has left? She refuses to give us any information such as who my dads attorney was, or any information at all.
1 Answer from Attorneys
I am sorry for your loss. You should consult a reputable probate attorney serving the county in which your father resided in order to cover and explore all options.
If you have any idea of any attorneys your father may have used, you can make some phone calls to see if a will, trust, pre-nuptial agreement or other relevant documents may have been prepared. In smaller communities, people have been known to call every law firm. The names of the witnesses to the power of attorney may reveal something as well.
You should understand, absent a prenuptial agreement, even if there was a will leaving everything to you, your step-mother would have had a right to renounce that will and take 1/3. Without a will, she gets 1/2. So, a difference, but not as harsh as you, or she, might have imagined. As far as the actions she took concerning the house, you can inquire and, if necessary, compel her to provide the information.
An important question is the expectation going forward. Is your step-mother likely to leave the estate, or a share of it, to you when she passes? If so, are any actions you take likely to change her mind, which risks leaving you left out entirely?