Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in South Dakota


my dad died 2 months ago. i asked his wife if he left a will. he had promised to leave something to the grandchildren. she told me she has no idea if he had i will. i find this hard to believe. is there a way i could find out if he left a will. if he did when will someone contact me

Asked on 7/17/07, 4:23 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Monte Schatz Attorney at law

Re: will

My understanding is that you are potential heir residing in New York and the will in question is one of your decedent father who was a resident of South Dakota. Your best place to start would be identify the county where your father passed away and find out the town that has the county courthouse. The South Dakota court system is called the circuit court. Most, if not all, counties in South Dakota do not have a large enough volume of estates to justify a separate "probate" court. You should ask for the clerk of the applicable circuit court in that county and give that person the name and date of death of your father. If there was a will filed for probate, the clerk should be able to locate that file and for a nominal fee can provide you a copy of the will.

If that produces no results and if your father passed away in a more rural area of South Dakota with a smaller population it may be worth your while to do an online attorney search for attorneys in that area utilizing martindale-hubbell attorney index online. You might try contacting local attorneys to see if they are representing your father's estate, but haven't filed the will yet to commence the probate process.

I realize this is a bit of chasing a needle in a haystack, but it might work.

Also, you may want to question your mother (stepmother?) further and see if your dad had his assets set up in a trust or in joint tenancy or other "direct distribution" methods whereby he totally bypassed the probate process without utilizing his will.

Unless a formal estate has been opened in the circuit court, it is unlikely that you will receive a notice of a will from anybody, so I would be more proactive in looking for a will utilizing the means I have suggested.

Good luck on your search.

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Answered on 7/17/07, 4:45 pm
Walter LeVine Walter D. LeVine, Esq.

Re: will

I totally agree with Monte. However, be aware that a Will only acts on assets registered in the individual name of the deceased, and not on assets, like life insurance or retirement plans that usually have designated beneficiaries, or bank or brokerage accounts registered in joint names with survivorship rigts. If he died without a Will, there may be some intestacy rights and this needs to also be checked. Again, intestacy only applies to individually owned assets.

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Answered on 7/18/07, 5:06 pm

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