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Did father have a will when he passed?
Has anyone filed a probate case to settle the estate?
Ok, if there was a will, then it controls what happens to the estate and who inherits. If there is no will, then VA default intestate law controls and says that the spouse inherits 1/3 and any children of the deceased split the other 2/3.
So if no one has filed a probate case, it would be a good idea for son to do so as he can then immediately take legal possession of any assets that father owned solely and prevent the stepmother from selling anything else off. He can also pursue her for damages to the estate because she has no legal power to sell off father's separate assets.
But she is right that if he has more debts than assets, everything would have to be sold to go towards paying them. However, she might just be saying that to deter anyone from filing a probate case since she only gets 1/3 if they did.