Can I see the Will?
We are often asked who has a right to see the Last Will and testament and the law in this area is rather peculiar, and if the author ran the country, much Law in the are of estate planning would be reforming to bring in some common sense. But I digress… (Click for our general page on Contentious Probate.)
Probate Question: My Stepmother won’t let me see the Will.
My Dad passed away the end of June 2011. When he made his will several years earlier he asked me to be executor of his will and I agreed. Not understanding much I didn’t ask his wife my step mother where I would get the will from to find out what he wanted until after he was cremated. Her reply was that she was sole executor and beneficiary and I would only have to step in only if she preceded him. She never let us see it. Being naive I thought I had no reason to disbelieve her. Just lately things seem to not be adding up and to top it off the funeral directors have contacted my brother and me to say she has not paid the funeral bill. I just would like to know where we would stand and if it is too late to see the will and where we would have to go to obtain a copy because we knew she will refuse to let us see it herself. Will we need to apply to probate or are we too late?
Probate Answer – can you see the Will?
If your dad married after the Will was made, it was probably invalidated and he may have made a new one.
If not, if he owned the home in his name, probate will be required, and once that is granted you will have the opportunity to see the Will once that is completed. But unless the executors chose to let you see a copy, you will have to get a copy Will the same as any other member of the public can once probate has been granted. To see how to see the Will after probate has been granted, click the link. If probate is not required, then you won’t be able to obtain a copy unless the executors decide to give you one.
If the property was owned with the step mother, then it will depend on the type of ownership, as one way the step mother would inherit automatically (so no probate needed) the other way she would not and probate would be required.
The other alternative is to contact the person who made the Will, and they may confirm that nothing is wrong or if you are a named executor, they will give you a copy. As a beneficiary they may well too, or at least confirm whether you are mentioned in the Will, but you don’t have any rights, so you can’t demand information. Remember that a new Last Will could have been made, or a Codicil written cancelling or amending the previous Will.
As the debts are not being paid you could possibly apply for letters of administration to sort out the estate. This would inevitably be contentious and we could certainly refer you to a firm who would advise you as we don’t deal with contentious estates. (That is ones where there will be a dispute!) However, we can put in a Caveat which is in effect an attempt to force the other side to talk to you, but that won’t work if probate is not required, and you may need to justify your suspicions that things are not being handled correctly.
It may be of course that she just has no money.
Let me know if you would like to be contacted, and good luck!
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