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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 116828
Experience:  Experienced in Trust and Succession Law, including Louisiana Laws
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I live in MD. My Dad, who re-married when I was 15, died on

Customer Question

I live in MD. My Dad, who re-married when I was 15, died on April 17th of 2015, in Lake Worth, FL( Palm Beach County)
I did not find out, was not even told, until weeks after his death. As his wife, made every effort to make sure no one "we would both know" told me. She worked very hard to alienate my 2 half brothers & between us, 6 amazing Grandchildren he would have loved to watch grow up, all are now 22 & under. I saw this coming from the moment she moved in with my Dad & I over 40+ years ago. Yes, he allowed her, but she never knew all the times he would visit or talk to me. He raised me alone. Question, yup I had to find out my dad died from a line on the Internet. Those would not have been his wishes, but at 89 his mind was not completely "there"
There are friends of mine who think I am "crazy" for not trying to find out if he left me anything. Honestly I had a great life before he met her & do not want a thing. They said, "You should re-think" the situation as you have kids. Yes, I have amazing 19 1/2 yr old twin sons. If anything was left I would only want them to have it. Obviously I don't speak to her. The times I called for my Dad through the years, when she answered did nothing but anger me. What I really want, is to have any legal or gov't documents, pictures and all the things my Dad had kept through the years. Especially my old passport, as it is important to me. It covers travel from the time I was 6-13 yes old. How am I to go about getting personal items like these? As well, if I decide I want to know if I was in the will, can I get one sent? As I am in MD, the grieving or not widow in FL.
Thanks in advance, Debra Leahy
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

If he died in FL, then the only place there would be any will would be if his estate was filed for probate. If his estate was not filed for probate, the legal presumption is that until a will is produced the estate is intestate (or without a will). In an intestate probate, the surviving spouse is entitled to 1/2 of his estate and the descendants of the deceased get the other 1/2 of the estate. So the first thing you have to check to see is if probate was opened in the county probate court where your father died. If no probate was opened, you as a prospective heir can seek to file to open one. In FL any probate in court requires an attorney pursuant to the FL Rules of Probate. So you would have to hire a FL probate attorney to file to open probate. If there is a reason why probate should not be opened, such as there was a trust and no probate is required, then it is up to the person claiming there is such a trust to produce proof and if they do not then it is presumed not to exist. Similarly, if there is a will, then it is up to the person claiming there is a will to produce the will in the court and if they do the court has to abide by the will, but if no will is produced the estate is then divided 1/2 to the surviving spouse and 1/2 to the descendants.

Unfortunately though, this means if the surviving spouse will not cooperate or you find nothing in the probate court in FL, you have to hire an attorney in FL and have them file probate and discover all of this information and that is your only remaining option in the matter to find out if you are entitled to anything from the estate.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks. I did see online that probate was filed. If she kept me from knowing my Dad's death, how willing really is she going to be in giving me legit info? As well, there existed previous wills. If they are found, would they "override" the one he signed while in her "custody" that is really the only true way to say it. What about very personal documents, etc of mine my dad kept. Do I need to hire an attorney to make sure they are returned to me?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

You need to contact the clerk of the probate court and get a copy of the file. Everything done in probate would be in the file including any will. The newest will would be the governing will I am afraid, unless you could prove he was mentally incompetent when he wrote the new will, which is difficult. If he had documents that belonged to you, then you would need an attorney to intervene in the probate to get those returned to you.