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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 102356
Experience:  Fully licensed attorney in Texas in private practice.
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My father past away and didn't have a will. My step mother

Customer Question

My father past away and didn't have a will. My step mother is now not letting us have any of his or family memorabilia. She has locked us off of the land and doesn't respond to calls or messages. What rights do me and my siblings have to his stuff and what actions can we take?
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Ely replied 11 months ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am sorry to hear about your loss. If your father did not have a Will, then default succession laws apply - see HERE and scroll down to "Who Gets What in Texas." In this case:

  1. the spouse inherits 1/3 of his personal property and 1/2 of common property (that they amassed together) and the right to use the home for life
  2. children inherit everything else.

However, if she is not cooperating, then probate has to be filed in order to force her to cooperate.

When someone passes away, then their estate has to be distributed. The problem is that without probate - with assets such as titled property or bank accounts (those that do not have a pay on death clause) - this is hard to do. This is because you cannot switch over the assets without an order from the probate court, and simply a Certificate of Death will not do. A Certificate of Death simply states that someone has passed on, but does not give you the right to really do anything in the deceased's name. Also the parties may fight or lock each other out over the estate.

So one files probate. Once probate is filed, the Executor of the estate gets something called a Letter of Testament/Administration (hereinafter "Letter"). This Letter will allow the Executor to switch over the assets from the deceased individual to whoever will own the property. It is like a "Power of Attorney," but from the Court. The Executor also has the ability via Court to enforce how the estate is divided.

Someone in your situation wants to initiate probate (using an attorney if possible), and to be appointed Executor (you or someone else) who can do this.

I hope this helps and clarifies. Please use the SEND or REPLY button to keep chatting, or please RATE when finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating. Kindly rate my answer as one of TOP THREE FACES/STARS and then SUBMIT, as this is how experts get credit for our time. Rating my answer the bottom two faces/stars (or failing to submit the rating) does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith with a positive rating.

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