Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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The key is whether or not your step son's father had a will. If he did, then the terms of the will control his probate estate. If he did not, then he will be deemed to have died intestate and the Washington intestate succession laws will apply. If his surviving spouse is in possession of the will, she needs to file the will with the probate court in the county in which he resided at his death, usually within 30 days of the date of death. Once it is filed with the court, it becomes public record and your step son can obtain a copy from the probate records. The will should name an executor who will then need to be officially appointed by the probate court as executor which will then give that person official authorization to administer the estate. Until that time, no one has any authority to do anything with your his probate assets. Your step son's father's estate and his assets are not his surviving spouse's personal piggy bank. If she doesn't produce the will and cause it to be filed within 30 days of the date of your step son's father's death, he can file his own petition with the court asking the court that he be deemed to have died intestate and that the state's intestate succession rules govern his probate estate. That will force her hand...to either produce a will or live with the Washington intestate succession laws. Under the Washington intestate succession laws, when there is a surviving spouse and children who are not the descendants of the surviving spouse, the estate is divided between the surviving spouse and the father's children.
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