Have Legal Questions? Ask a Lawyer Now.
Assuming there is no will, your mother's estate passes by the laws of intestate succession. Since you are her son (issue) you would share in the estate. Here is a copy of Washington State's law of intestate succession:
11.02.070 Community property - Disposition - Probate administration of.Except as provided in RCW 41.04.273 and 11.84.025, upon the death of a decedent, a one-half share of the community property shall be confirmed to the surviving spouse, and the other one-half share shall be subject to testamentary disposition by the decedent, or shall descend as provided in chapter 11.04 RCW. The whole of the community property shall be subject to probate administration for all purposes of this title, including the payment of obligations and debts of the community, the award in lieu of homestead, the allowance for family support, and any other matter for which the community property would be responsible or liable if the decedent were living.11.04.015 Descent and distribution of real and personal estate.The net estate of a person dying intestate, or that portion thereof with respect to which the person shall have died intestate, shall descend subject to the provisions of RCW 11.04.250 and 11.02.070, and shall be distributed as follows:(1) Share of surviving spouse. The surviving spouse shall receive the following share:(a) All of the decedent's share of the net community estate; and(b) One-half of the net separate estate if the intestate is survived by issue; or
(c) Three-quarters of the net separate estate if there is no surviving issue, but the intestate is survived by one or more of his parents, or by one or more of the issue of one or more of his parents; or(d) All of the net separate estate, if there is no surviving issue nor parent nor issue of parent.(2) Shares of others than surviving spouse. The share of the net estate not distributable to the surviving spouse, or the entire net estate if there is no surviving spouse, shall descend and be distributed as follows:
(a) To the issue of the intestate; if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, they shall take equally, or if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.
(b) If the intestate not be survived by issue, then to the parent or parents who survive the intestate.
(c) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, then to those issue of the parent or parents who survive the intestate; if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, they shall take equally, or, if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.
(d) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, or by any issue of the parent or parents who survive the intestate, then to the grandparent or grandparents who survive the intestate; if both maternal and paternal grandparents survive the intestate, the maternal grandparent or grandparents shall take one-half and the paternal grandparent or grandparents shall take one-half.
(e) If the intestate not be survived by issue or by either parent, or by any issue of the parent or parents or by any grandparent or grandparents, then to those issue of any grandparent or grandparents who survive the intestate; taken as a group, the issue of the maternal grandparent or grandparents shall share equally with the issue of the paternal grandparent or grandparents, also taken as a group; within each such group, all members share equally if they are all in the same degree of kinship to the intestate, or, if some be of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation.11.04.035 Kindred of the half blood. Kindred of the half blood shall inherit the same share which they would have inherited if they had been of the whole blood, unless the inheritance comes to the intestate by descent, devise, or gift from one of his ancestors, or kindred of such ancestor's blood, in which case all those who are not of the blood of such ancestors shall be excluded from such inheritance: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the words "kindred of such ancestor's blood" and "blood of such ancestors" shall be construed to include any child lawfully adopted by one who is in fact of the blood of such ancestors.11.04.095 Inheritance from stepparent avoids escheat.If a person die leaving a surviving spouse and issue by a former spouse and leaving a will whereby all or substantially all of the deceased's property passes to the surviving spouse or having before death conveyed all or substantially all his or her property to the surviving spouse, and afterwards the latter dies without heirs and without disposing of his or her property by will so that except for this section the same would all escheat, the issue of the spouse first deceased who survive the spouse last deceased shall take and inherit from the spouse last deceased the property so acquired by will or conveyance or the equivalent thereof in money or other property; if such issue are all in the same degree of kinship to the spouse first deceased they shall take equally, or, if of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree shall take by representation with respect to such spouse first deceased.
It is not easy for a non-lawyer to wade through probate statutes, so I suggest that you contact a local attorney for advice on how to poceed from here.
If this answer is responsive to your question, please accept it. That is how we are compensated. I would also appreciate it if you would provide positive feed back on your view of the answer. Finally, if the answer was especially helpful you can voluntarily pay me a bonus. If I can be of further assistance or you have other questions in the future you can ask for me and reach me at this site. This communication is not intended as legal advice. A local attorney should always be consulted for legal advice. No client/attorney relationship is intended or created by this communication.
And yes, you do have a claim to the investment because it was purchased with separate property, so it remains separate property. The only way the investment may become community property is if a portion of the investment was made with community property (i.e. she sold the seperate property and used the proceeds to buy a money market account, and then contributed some of her paycheck to the money market account, then that money market account or at least a portion of it would be considered community property).
I'm sorry that you feel you are being left with nothing, but this is the way it is when people pass away without leaving a will. Especially in community property states. However, according to the law, you are not left with nothing, you are left with 1/2 of your mother's separate property.
As as you stated in your correct interpretation of the statute, even if your mother had left a will, your stepfather would receive 1/2 of your mother's estate and only 1/2 would be distributed as per the will. This is the way it is in most community property states. Even non-community property states allow a surviving spouse to take an "elective" share of the person's estate regardless of whether they made a will leaving the property to someone else.
Just a side note, your stepfather could voluntarily relinquish his share of any of the property and then it would pass to you.
If your mother left a will, then your stepfather could take 1/2 of the community property as his share and then the other 1/2 of community property, as well as 100% of the separate property, would be subject to the will. If the will says all community property goes to the husband and all seperate property goes to the kids, then that is what will happen. I suggest that if you believe there is a will you diligently search for it, or if you knew that your mother had an attorney then ask the attorney.
As for the property that went to your stepfather, it would depend on whether you find the will and whether your stepfather leaves a will when he dies, and even then you would have to contest his will to get any of your mother's property, which may be more expensive than the value of the property itself, plus it can be emotionally exhausting.
If you are satisfied with my answer, please don't forget to click the green Accept button. Because the other attorney opted out of this answer and because you relisted, you need to click on the green Accept button in order for me to get credit for my answer. Thank you.
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).