Q: I have personally seen my grandmother’s will. She had copies in her house. She had a stroke and my aunt moved her out of state to a nursing home in Tampa Florida. She has since passed away, two days after my mother (so no help getting info from her). I believe my Aunt maybe trying to hide the fact my grandmother had a will. I know her grandchildren were left a fair amount of money. My aunt is also POA. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You will need to hire a lawyer in FLA to investigate and possibly file a court action. Before you do that, you can call and check what the procedure in that county is to see if a will has been filed. They may have a website, or you may be able to get an answer on the telephone. If a will has not been filed and you truly believe there is one, the attorney can begin to request it in writing from your aunt and if unsuccessful, he can petition the court to order her to product it. Having an attorney involved will cost you money.
Q: I was the beneficiary of my Dad’s military death insurance when he recently passed away. I don’t have my Dad’s last will and testament. 2 other family members have the will though. Am I legally entitled to have a copy? If so, what is the procedure for me to acquire the will if they don’t want to give me a copy?
A: You deserve answers to your questions. If your father died with any property in his name, a house, car, bank accounts, annuities, etc., it may be necessary to open an estate to pass this property on to his heirs. If your family has filed the will, and thus opened an estate, you can obtain a copy from your local Register of Wills. If you are in Pittsburgh, the Register of Wills is in the City-County Building at 414 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh. If family members will not share a copy with you upon request, that is unfortunate. If so, don’t despair, you can seek the help of a lawyer. A lawyer can send them a letter and if still no response, have them summoned to court to produce the will by filing a Petition for Rule to Show Cause.
Q: Does a lawyer have to provide me with a copy of my will that was drawn up by myself and the lawyer? Do I have a right to a copy of my will? I asked my lawyer for copy of my will so I could review it. He will review with me in office but refuses to give me copy of my will. Can he refuse to give?
A: Sounds weird. My understanding is that your will is your property, as you paid the attorney to draft it. If he or she is holding it for a good reason, for example if you are mentally unstable and prone to make sudden impulsive decisions that you later regret, he or she may have a good reason. However, like I said, it is your property. If nothing like that is going on here, and he or she won’t give it to you after you request, just go do another will with a new lawyer. The new will revoke the old will.
Q: What happens if I die without a will? I am married and all our assets are in joint accounts?
A: If all of your assets are jointly titled with your wife, upon your death they pass to your wife by operation of law. With no will, if there is anything in your name only, it will go to heirs under the PA intestate statute. This would mean that the first 30 k would pass to your wife and the balance split between your wife and children. If you would rather your wife inherit everything from you that is held in your name at the time of your death, you will need to have a will in place.
Q: Father opened a bank account in his name only in 1974. He was divorced in 1981. The bank account was not mentioned in divorce. He remarried in 1982. He died in 1998. Who does the account belong to? the first wife, current widow or kids? Father opened bank account in his name only in 1974 and he was divorced in 1981. The bank account was not mentioned in divorce. He remarried in 1982. Died in 1998. Who does the account belong to, the first wife, current widow or kids?
A: If he has a will, it goes to the person or persons in the will. If he excludes his widow, she can elect to take against the will. If he has no will, his estate will pass through intestate succession in PA which means the wife get s the first $30,000.00 and the balance is shared between her and the children. If this is any amount of money worth fighting for, I would consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Q: Do I need a will? I have no real estate, just bonds and a bank account. My 4 children know it is to be split up evenly and they agree with my wishes.
A: No attorney can answer this without more information. Do you have a wife? If so, she cannot be totally disinherited by you and can file an “election” against your estate. Do these assets pass directly to your children either in-trust-for or jointly? If there is no spouse and the assets pass directly, it could be a very simple process and your children would receive their inheritance, pay inheritance tax and there would be no need to open an estate. If you have no will (“intestate”)and these assets do not pass directly to the heirs, an estate will need to be opened and the assets will pass under the PA laws of intestate succession to the heirs equally. Under intestate law, if you have a deceased child, that child’s child or children will inherit the share of their parent. If you have a will you can choose to have the share of a deceased child instead pass to your surviving children or any one of your surviving children. You have more say in how your estate passes when you have a will. You can also choose which child will serve as your executor, which could avoid any potential disagreement among your children. I would advise having a consultation with an estate attorney and having a simple will done.
Q: My aunt died in 1982 in Adams County, PA. I have reason to believe I may have been a beneficiary of this will, Can you tell me where I could possibly obtain a copy of the will? Are they archived, in Fulton County?
A: No one usually files a will until a person dies. If your aunt owned property in her own name of a sufficient value, and she died with a will, there is a good chance the will was filed and an estate opened in Adams County. Call or contact the county Register of Wills where she died and have them run a search, if they will do that for you-there may be a fee. They can confirm if a will was filed. As far as examining the records to see if you inherited anything, you would need to hire a lawyer in that county to copy and review the file, or go there and do it yourself. The Adam’s County Courthouse is on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg. I do not want to discourage you, but if an attorney was involved, which one usually is when an estate is filed, you would have been notified unless they did not have an address for you. The attorneys are bound by state law to notify all heirs. Secondly, even if another heir or relative took your money, you may have statute of limitation problems in bringing a claim and the money may be gone. I would investigate as much as you can on your own at first.