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Monday, September 24, 2012

Am I entitled to see my deceased parent's will?

Questions about a parent's estate stay with us, don't they? This is particularly true if we don't get a chance to see the will for ourselves. This reader asks a question that many others also wonder about. Here's the question:

"I am son to a father that left us at an early age. He had very little to do with me over the years and only ever paid the small court required child support until I turned 18. He was remarried and never had more kids that I am aware of. He passed away suddenly while I was in my 20s and I received no information or contact regarding his will. As a son would I not be entitled to see his will and if his death happened say 20 years ago and his wife is still alive today, could I do anything?"

This question contains one of the most common misconceptions about wills out there. That a son or daughter is automatically entitled to see a deceased parent's will is assumed by many people. The assumption is wrong. There is no such entitlement. 

Many people find this rule to be counter-intuitive. It makes sense to some people that a child should be entitled to see a parent's will. However, it simply isn't the case. You are not entitled to see a deceased person's will unless you are either the executor of the will or a residuary beneficiary of the will. Normally an executor would only contact those who were to inherit under the will.

A will is a private, personal document. As such, nobody is allowed to see it that has no legal reason to see it. Wanting to see it doesn't count. In my view, this is one more reason why people need to be super careful about who they appoint as executor, as we all know there are some executors out there who take advantage of privacy rules to deprive legitimate beneficiaries of their inheritance.

My guess would be that your father left his estate to his second wife and also made her the executor. If you (and any siblings) were over the age of 18 at the time and were not handicapped, you would not have been legal dependents and therefore he would not legally have to leave anything to you.

Your question about "doing anything" is a bit open-ended. If you are asking whether you could ask to see the will, yes you could, but you have no legal right to insist upon it. If you are asking whether you could get anything from the estate, I believe your chances are slim to none. In the absence of legal dependence on your father, what would be the basis for a challenge? And just as importantly, what would be left of the estate to collect on?

79 comments:

  1. Lynne:
    Dealing with a difficult beneficiary that is demanding a copy of the will only weeks after his father passed away. Also claims that once the will is probated he can review the "public document" anytime. I don't feel at this time giving him a copy of the will could serve any purpose other than having him ask more questions about the will and take up more of my time. Do you recommend updates to a beneficiary that chooses to be difficult and argumentative at every turn? Do you recommend giving a copy of the will right away even if we are going to probate? How much is the executor required to take in this area from an individual like this? My thoughts are to stop updates and just complete the work. At the end of the process as long as the wishes of the will are complete why don't I just call in all the beneficiaries with the lawyer at that time for a copy of the will and review prior to disbursing the cash. Your advise has been great in the past, please give me your valued opinion again. Paul.

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    1. Hi Paul,
      I don't see the advantage in "stopping all updates" to someone who is agitating for more updates. I usually recommend to executors that they update all beneficiaries on a regular basis to discourage the beneficiaries from constantly asking for more. Give this beneficiary the same updates you give the others. Otherwise all you're doing is antagonizing someone who apparently is already jacked up.

      How much you're required to take is a good question. You're doing a job, so you should be as professional as you can. Try to remain compassionate to beneficiaries who are suffering the loss of a loved one, but not to the point that you're driven to distraction. If you have to screen calls or reply only by email, for example, then do that. If this beneficiary is going to be getting a copy of the will at the time of probate, and you are proceeding to probate as efficiently as you can, then you can ask him to wait for his copy. You can explain that you are trying to keep costs and executor fees as low as possible and that sending out documents that are coming to him in a couple of weeks anyway is only duplicating cost and effort.

      I'm curious as to what is motivating this beneficiary to want the copy ASAP. Is he worried that a specific item is missing or that something specific is wrong? Reassuring someone that all valuables are in secure custody and that the locks have been changed on the house to prevent items from disappearing might help.

      Waiting until the end of the process to report to beneficiaries is something you're entitled to do, but I would expect that waiting until then is going to make all of the beneficiaries anxious.

      Lynne

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  2. In British Columbia, the law is a little different than in some other provinces. Before a will is probated, the executor must give notice of his or her intention to apply, as well as a copy of the will, to certain people even if they are not beneficiaries, including children. In B.C., and independent adult child may apply under the Wills Variation Act to vary the parent's will, which is not the case in most other provinces.

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  3. Thanks Stan for that very helpful addition to the original post. By the way I'm a huge fan of your blog and I encourage everyone in BC to read it.

    Lynne

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  4. 2 years ago my relationship with my Mother who was living with us at the time became very strained resulting in her moving in with my sister. After my mother died recently I have been told my mother had written a new will leaving everything to my sister and appointing her as executor. I have asked to be present at the reading of the will, she told me there will be no reading and I can not have a copy. Am I entitled to see the will or do I have to take her word that this will exists and she indeed gets everything.

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    1. It's extremely unlikely that there is going to be a reading of the will. That's something generally only done in fiction.

      As I said in my original post, if you are not a residuary beneficiary of the will, you are not entitled to see a copy of the will. If you are not prepared to take her word for it, which many disappointed beneficiaries are not, you might ask a lawyer to write to her for written confirmation of your status under the will. Though this might still not produce a copy of the will, you'd at least have a paper trail of her fraud if it later turned out she was deceiving you.

      Another idea is to go to the probate court nearest where your mother resided and do a search under her name to see if a will has been sent for probate.

      By the way, after reading three very rude comments that you left here for me(which I declined to publish), I think I can guess why your relationship with family members "became very strained". You were upset that I hadn't answered your post. This blog gets as many as 3,000 hits a day right now, and a huge number of posts. Yours was one of two dozen I received that day, in addition to the 10 or so emails a day I get from readers as well. I spend several hours a week of my own time giving out free information to those who are looking for it, and sometimes it takes a long time to get to them. If you really couldn't wait for a response you could have just hired a lawyer instead of sending rude messages to me. News flash: the world doesn't revolve around you.

      Lynne

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    2. Love it Lynne!

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  5. I would like to purchase one of your books so that I can find answers to a number of questions regarding the process of dealing with a family estate. My mother recently passed away (in Alberta) and 2 of my sisters are named executors. I would like to find out what the process is without asking them any questions. I recently asked them for a copy of the will and I did not hear back from them. If my question was off base I need to find out what the process is, what they are having to deal with and how long things take to happen. I don't want to be like the person described in the September 28 post and be a nag. I live in BC. I hope the rules are the same in both provinces. Which book do you recommend please?

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    1. Hi. I'm sorry to hear about your mother's passing.

      If she passed away in Alberta, her estate is likely to be administered in Alberta. Obviously there is a will, since there are named executors. If the will is going to be probated, this should happen in Alberta.

      The process is very different in each province. The general rules are the same and the legal principles are as well, but the forms and even the names of documents are different.

      The book I wrote that deals with the subject matter you're concerned with is called "Alberta Probate and Administration Kit". You can get it online at self-counselpress.com, or amazon.ca or at Chapters Online.

      If you are a beneficiary of the will, you are entitled to see it. So far they haven't even said whether you're a beneficiary, though most people do expect do be beneficiaries of their parents' wills. I don't think one reminder to them makes you a nag :)

      Lynne

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  6. my mother in law passed away in 2001 he on was exector of the will, he refused to show anyone the will but made mention on several occacssions that my husband was mentioned in her will, my father in law has not passed and a copy of his will was provided, does my husband have the right to request a copy of his late mothers will now, and is the executor required to show him,
    my husband has been forced to purchase property that was indicated was left o him in the will of his late mother.

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  7. Hi Lynne,

    At the risk of duplicating a question already asked, I have a similar one for you. My godmother passed away a year and a half ago. She appointed her book keeper as executor. The book keeper made it her business to contact my parents and my sister and brother (also godchildren) about this, and told my parents that the godchildren were included in the will. She also formed an email group that included the godchildren and offshore relatives to apprise us all of my aunt's condition (she was placed in a care home) and the executor's disposal of my godmother's assets before her death.

    Now that the will has been probated, the executor has been silent. My sister has written to her about the godchildren's status, and was told there is nothing in the will for us.

    We have found the executor's behavior to be rather odd, even inappropriate, during this process, and suspect, correctly or not, that she may have insinuated herself into our godmother's confidence for her own benefit. Our godmother had quite a lot of money, and a history of trusting unscrupulous people.

    Long story short, is it possible to find out if the godchildren were included in the will? I don't need to see the will per se, just to be sure that what the executor says is true. If it's true, fine, but if not, this woman needs to be taken to task.

    I hope you can give me some guidance, and thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

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    1. Seeing the will itself is the most reliable way of knowing whether any particular person was included as a beneficiary, as well as to see whether that person was a residuary or a specific beneficiary.

      The difference is that a residuary beneficiary is entitled to a full accounting of everything the executor does with the estate.

      It appears that your sister has already received a written confirmation from the executor that there is nothing in the will for the godchildren. Therefore I assume there is nothing to be gained by writing to her again.

      Other than asking the executor or looking at the will itself, there is no way to know whether you are in fact a beneficiary.

      If you are reluctant to ask the executor for a copy of the will, try going to the courthouse closest to where your aunt lived and requesting a copy of the will and accompanying probate documents.

      Lynne

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  8. do I have to notify my sister of my mothers death-- she is not a beneficiary, and my mother and my sister have not spoken in several years. they both live in b.c.

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    1. There is no law that I know of that requires a person to tell a sibling about their parent's death. However, when a child is left out of a parent's will - especially in BC - they may wish to launch a lawsuit to obtain a share of the estate. If you think that by distributing the estate before that person knows about the death will make that right go away, you are wrong. You could end up being sued at some time in the future when it's going to be twice as hard because the estate money will not be easily on hand to satisfy the claim. Hiding things rarely works out well.

      Lynne

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  9. Hello,
    I am in Ontario. My husband's father passed away in March and we have not heard anything regarding his estate. His wife (my husband's stepmother) has organized the service for him, his cremation without any consultation of his only son. When his father was alive he made mention of a property he was to inherit as well as a buisness. We have not asked if there is a will because the severe still has not been made.
    My questions are 1) if his stepmother is executor of the will and he IS named in the will can she choose to not notify him of this? 2) is there a way to find out if he is named on the will without asking the stepmother? This is a woman who did not invite her husband's only son to their wedding..and as much as I hope she wouldn't be up to no good..I don't know that she is above that .

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    1. Hi Alex,
      If your husband is a beneficiary of the estate, then no, the executor cannot legally choose not to let him know. In cases where there isn't good communication between parties (which really isn't rare with step-parents), you can expect the executor only to do the minimum required by law.

      It's only been about a month since your husband's father passed, so it's too early to be alarmed. Normally a notice to a beneficiary arrives with a copy of the will as well as information about the estate, including an inventory. It takes some time to get that together and put into document form. I don't blame you for wondering whether she is "up to no good", as that seems to be the main response all beneficiaries have, but it's too early to reach that conclusion. Give her a chance to get things together.

      There is no reason whatever that a son should not ask whether he was included in his father's will. I honestly don't know what you mean by "the severe still has not been made". But he is what we would call a "logical beneficiary" and of course he will want to know where he stands.

      If your husband is not willing to ask for a copy of the will, he is putting himself into a needlessly difficult position. His only option then will be to do a search at the court to see whether the will has been sent for probate. If it has, he will have his answer. But it the court says there is no record of an application for probate, he is no further ahead, because the absence of probate could mean:
      - she is going to apply for probate but isn't ready yet
      - the assets were all in joint names so there is no need for probate
      - there was a will but it's invalid
      - she is supposed to file for probate but is putting it off in the hopes that nobody ever pushes the issue.

      He should ask her. He can always ask in writing if he doesn't want to have a conversation with her.

      Lynne

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    2. What if there is no will and the same sort of circumstances, Lynn, with step mother and half siblings?

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    3. What if there is no will but the same circumstances with a step mom and half siblings. I am my father's eldest. It was discussed that things would go to his wife and then split three ways. What legal recourse do I have if any. It's been 6 months since his death and my brother and sister are joint on the bank acct now.

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  10. Dear Lynne.
    I have recently been named as executor of my parents will. My sister is somewhat volatile. I live in B.C., my parents live in Manitoba. I have been reading about the duties involved, so that I am prepared, before I need to fulfill this role. I have a couple of questions. Will I be able to stay in my deceased parents residence while initially fulfilling my role as executor ( it could be necessary, if my sister takes offence to her not being named as executor, and I will need to be in province, at least for the first month).
    Also. Is it customary, or recommended to use a lawyer in filing for probate etc. my parents estate is likely to include real property in the form of the house, as well as maybe 100,000 in GICs and cash, and no debts. I will be careful to minimize costs to the estate, but am anxious to proceed carefully and accurately.
    Most sincerely, Mia

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    1. Hi Mia,
      I'd be careful about staying in your parents' residence once they have passed away. It's fine to stay there for a bit while you deal with immediate matters, but to me, a month is pushing it. The issue is that once your parents are gone, the house belongs to the beneficiaries of the will, and should be sold ASAP. If you plan to stay a while, you should pay rent to the estate. Also, things like your light and water bills may end up being a point of contention because if your sister is like most beneficiaries, she will resent covering those costs out of estate money. So for the sake of everyone, don't plan on staying any longer than you have to.

      The situation is always dependent on the facts, of course. If during that month you have listed the house for sale, disposed of the contents, had it cleaned, etc, then it's pretty hard for anyone to argue that you're dragging your feet just so you can live there for free.

      Most people use a lawyer to apply for probate, but whether you do or not depends on your comfort level. Most people feel that they don't have much familiarity with the documents, and don't really have the time and patience to deal with it when they already have jobs and families to deal with.

      Since in your case the estate will be in another province, it might be a good idea for you to have a lawyer as your agent. This will save time and effort, and probably money too once you figure in travel costs. You might consider calling a trust company to act as your agent in Manitoba, rather than a lawyer. It's worth comparing costs.

      I'm glad to see that you're gathering information ahead of time. Being informed will definitely help you when the time comes.

      Lynne

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  11. How do I get a copy of the will? A father inlaw passed away 2 months ago. The executor is refusing to allow us to read the will or give us a copy. How can we get a copy of the will. We live in Ontario Canada

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    1. As a son-in-law or daughter-in-law, you have no rights whatsoever. However, you refer to "us" rather than "me" so I assume that the other person referred to is the son or daughter of the deceased.

      The general rule is that only people named as beneficiaries under a will are entitled to see the will. Nobody is allowed to have a copy just because they are related to the deceased, even a child of the deceased.

      But let's take that general rule into the realm of real life. The WHY of these cases is always important, but you haven't said why the executor is refusing your spouse a copy (or even if he/she was even told a reason).

      You didn't say whether your spouse is a beneficiary or not. If he/she is a beneficiary, since it has only been two months since the death, it's highly possible that the executor intends to give your spouse a copy of the will along with the application for probate. That would be the normal course of action, but two months is much too soon to expect that.

      If your spouse has been told by the executor that he/she is not a beneficiary of the estate, he/she is going to have to rely on the legal system. The usual way to get started is to send a written letter requesting a copy of the will.

      If the executor still refuses, your spouse can go through the court to ask for an order compelling the executor to give him/her a copy. There is no guarantee that this will be successful.

      If the court decides that your spouse can have a copy, then the executor may find that he has to pay court costs for you. In other words, there are financial consequences for an executor who withholds a will for no good reason.

      If the executor has filed for probate, your spouse might want to go to the courthouse and try to get a copy of the filed documents, which will include the will.

      Lynne

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  12. Hi Lynn,
    Thank you for your very informative blog. I have a question: I'm in BC where my father just died. His wife (he re-married) is the executor. I understand that in BC things are a bit different. Does she have an obligation to show me, being his daughter, the will even if I'm not a beneficiary?

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    1. No, she does not have that obligation if you're not a beneficiary. However, if you are considering litigation to challenge the will and she refuses to give you a copy, you might end up asking the court to force her to give you a copy, in which case she would probably end up paying legal costs. Because of this, she might decide to give you a copy under those circumstances.

      Lynne

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    2. Great to know. Thank you again for your generous counsel and great blog.

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  13. Dear Lynne,
    I live in Ontario, I just want to know if I legally can change our will to not include my step daughter as a beneficiary in the event of my husband's death. Since she has not spoken to his father for over 10 years. She was never part of our life. She does not call or see him on Fathers day year after year or remember his birthdays. They don't have a good relationship. My husband has suffered in silence for years. This will was put in place over 10 years ago when we first got married. At that time, we still have hope that she will change one day. However, she never did. Our feelings were hurt so deeply. In my view, she deserves nothing from us. Can she challenge the revised will from me? I appreciate your thought on this.
    Thank you!

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    1. In the space of a blog question, I can only give you some general rules and information. If you want to talk about your specific situation and get legal advice, call me at 709-221-5511 for a consultation (which I charge for).

      In the meantime, I can make some general comments on your question. First of all you asked if you can change "our" will, Obviously you and your husband each have your own wills and you can't change his. My interpretation is that his will is going to leave everything to you if he dies before you.

      If he does leave all to you, you are legally entitled to change your will at any time after his death. The only exception is if you and he make mutual wills, which are pretty rare and contain specific language agreeing never to change them.

      Your only legal obligations once your husband passes away are to your dependents. Adult children or stepchildren who are not handicapped are not considered dependents, therefore you can leave them out.

      As I said, these are general rules and you'll have to decide how well they apply to your specific situation.

      Lynne

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  14. How can you sue if you don't know if there is anything to sue

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  15. I was estranged from my father for over a decade. He was divorced from my mother and remarried a woman with two daughters. All of the children are well over 18, my siblings included. He did not leave anything to any of us in his will only to his new family. I recently read a story from the UK of a grown woman who was estranged from her own mother and contesting her mothers will and being awarded a share of her estate. Is this something that we can do in Canada?

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  16. I live in Ontario. I had two children with my first husband, who died many years ago, and I've re-married. No children from the second marriage. One of my children has been very spiteful toward me; the other hasn't tried to hurt me, but isn't communicative with or helpful to me. As it stands, I'm leaving almost all I have to my second husband (with very small amounts left to both children), but if my second husband predeceases me, I would leave most of my estate to my non-spiteful child, but only if my spiteful child wasn't alive... could I stipulate, say, 30 days after my death?
    I know that the child who I may leave money to would give some of it to my spiteful child, and I absolutely want to prevent that from possibly happening.
    If my second husband predeceases me, and my spiteful child was still alive, say 30 days after my death (if I can stipulate that), I would then wish that my estate be left to charity.

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    1. Yes, you can say that someone receives an inheritance only if they outlive you by 30 days. However, I don't see how that is going to stop your nice child from sharing with your spiteful child.

      Lynne

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  17. Hi there, my mother died about 7 years ago. In was 100% dependant upon her and when she died my father who was still married to my mom when she passed away won't let me see or know anything about her will at all. My question is that my father doesn't like me at all anymore and told me that he is removing me from the will. I find this unfair and rude . after Mom died my brother became the other owner of my dads company, my other brother received a house and a brand new truck and my sister got my moms house, property (cause my dad moved), her SUV that she traded in for a brand new Lincoln SUV and all of my moms possessions like jewelry, kitchen cooking pans, clothes etc. I got a kick in the butt and not a penny I get told I am being removed from the will. What do I do? Am I legally allowed to see her will? Let me know thanks.

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    1. Why did I not got any sort of response ??? I'm still waiting and the other lady posted a comment and got a reply next day ahh please reply thanks Oh and all of my above comments are in Saskatchewan thanks

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  18. My legally adopted parents passed away..I was never notified or informed of their passing or given an opportunity to see their wills.is there anyway for me to see this now? They passed a few years ago. My siblings CLaiM I do not exist because I am adopted. I do...what can I do if anything?

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    1. Hi Raven,
      Legally, adopted kids have exactly the same inheritance rights as biological kids, so your siblings are completely wrong.

      Do you have any idea who the executor of the estate might have been? If so, you can ask to see the will. My guess is, from the way the sibs responded to you, that the will left the estate to "all my children" and they don't want to share with you. However, this wording would give you the right to see the will.

      If you don't know who the executor was, or you can't get cooperation there, try going to the courthouse to see whether the will was probated. If it was, you can simply get a copy there, very inexpensively. Go to the courthouse that was closest to where your parents lived, or if you live out of province, try phoning there to see what arrangements you can make for a search.

      Lynne

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  19. My elderly Aunt passed away in Dec. She had a will written in 2012 and left everything to my cousin. When my cousin went to see a lawyer about probate she was told that since my Aunt had never married,had no children and all her siblings were gone,that all of the cousins had to be notified and sent a copy of the will. I received an email and a paper copy of the will and my cousin's intention to proceed with probate. You've stated a few times in your blog that if you're not a beneficiary you're not entitled to see the will. Any idea why it would be different in this case? The lawyer referred to WESA 2014. I read some of that but can't find the answer.
    Thanks,
    Curious in BC.

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    1. Hmm. Actually I can't think of any reason pertaining to inheritance why the other cousins needed to be notified. If there was an outright gift to one person and your aunt had no dependents, I don't see why others had to be involved.

      Was there a problem with the named executor? If the executor had passed away or renounced and now someone had to apply for letters of administration, then yes all of them would have to be notified because they'd all have the same right to apply.

      Lynne

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  20. Hi Lynne,

    I read through the above comments to check if anyone had asked this first so hopefully I did not overlook it if you have already answered...

    My parents divorced a few years ago and I have not talked to my father since. I know he has not worked for years and years. I worry that when he passes, he will have nothing but debts remaining. Would I be responsible for his debts because I am his child? I get the impression from previous posts that being someone's biological child does not mean they are entitled to anything. Does this apply to liabilities too?

    My brother talks to my father from time to time and I would assume he is in the will and could be that i am not. Would he be solely responsible for the debts in that scenario?

    If I happen to be in the will, would I then be responsible for his debts?

    Thank you very much for your advice! It is greatly appreciated. Bless you for being so generous with your knowledge and time.

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    1. No, you will not be responsible for his debts, and neither will your brother, with or without a will. His debts are his. Whatever he does have in his estate will have to be liquidated to pay as many debts as possible, but any that remain unpaid are not the responsibility of a person's kids.

      Lynne

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  21. My father recently passed away. He had no contact with 3 of his children for many years. He has apparently left his estate to his other daughter and his nephew. As one of the children not in the will do we have grounds to contest the will and ask to have his estate divided among his 4 children (all of which are adults)?

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    1. It is unlikely that you have any grounds to contest the will, for the simple reason that you are adults who are not dependents of your father. Nobody is required to leave his or her estate equally to all of the children.

      This is a general rule that I've stated, which means that there are exceptions. If any of the children who were left out are mentally disabled to the point that he or she cannot earn a living, then that child definitely has a right to contest the distribution of the will.

      You would also be able to challenge the will if you could prove that someone (either the child who did get something or the nephew) had unduly influenced your father in their favour. However, I wouldn't expect that to be applicable to you since none of you have had contact for years. It's not like you had a good relationship and someone coerced your father to leave you out. I meet plenty of parents who are estranged from a child and they don't need any prodding from anyone to leave the estranged children out of the will.

      If you live in BC, you can look at applying under the wills variation legislation which is different than the law in the rest of Canada.

      Lynne

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  22. Dear Lynne = is a will made in BC valid in AB , my husband and I only have a small savings account as an asset , to be divided equally among our three daughters

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  23. i am the beneficiary and the only child why didnt i8 get a copy of his will? can i still get one?

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  24. ok sry i did that wrong u can reply to me at marlenefisher73@gmail.com i would like to get a copy of my dads will i was his only child and his beneficiary. and i didnt no i could get one. so how do i go about it

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    1. Hi Marlene,
      Who is the executor named in the will, that is or was looking after your father's estate? That is the person who should have the will.

      You didn't say how much time has passed since your father passed away. It takes some time for the executor to gather all of the information that goes into an estate, so don't expect anything to arrive in the first few weeks.

      The fact that you're his only child does not necessarily entitle you to get a copy of his will. He could have left his estate to someone else. If you're not a beneficiary of his estate according to his will, you're not entitled to get a copy of his will from the executor. However, if you were on good terms with your dad and it seems odd that he would not include you in his will, ask the executor for one anyway. He or she may not mind giving you one, or at least explaining whether or not you're named in it.

      If your father's will was probated, you can get a copy of it at the courthouse nearest where he lived. Ask for the probate clerk, and then ask for a search to be done on your father's name. If his name does not show up, his will was not sent to probate (not all wills are).

      Lynne

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  25. The posts here are not recent so Im not sure the chance of response - but here goes: My father passed away in Saskatchewan while I was living in England. whilst he was hospitalized I am told that he made attempts to contact me - though this is second hand information. I had been calling every sunday my entire life, and whilst he was in hospital my step mother told me that he was 'busy' not that he was ill. She also told people that she had no idea how to contact me to tell me he had died despite the fact that I telephoned every sunday. I was told by my mother 3wks after the fact. My step mother refused to speak to me and sent photographs. My concern is that she told people that she couldn't find me because I was included in the will. Is there a way to find this out?

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    Replies
    1. The comment above yours is less than a month old. Given that there are a thousand threads on this blog, that's not bad :)

      One possibility is to do a search at the probate court in the town closest to where your father lived. In some places they can be done online but in others you may have to call or email. Once wills go to probate, they are publicly accessible.

      Keep in mind that not all wills go through probate, especially where the person who died was married. This is because married people often set up their assets in a way that avoids probate, such as joint ownership of property and designated beneficiaries on plans and policies. When people are in second marriages, like your father, they are less likely to set everything up to go to their spouse, so it's worth doing a search at the probate court just to see.

      You mentioned that you're getting information from someone, so I'm wondering whether that someone has a copy of the will he'she can share.

      The fact that you are someone's son does not give you the right to see the will, as harsh as that may sound. Only beneficiaries have the right to that. However, you don't know for sure whether you are, or are not, a beneficiary. And you ARE a "logical beneficiary" - or someone who might logically expect to be included - not just because you're a son, but you had a good relationship with your father.

      You might consider making a written request to your step-mother for a copy of the will. You can ask a lawyer to help you if you feel that would strengthen your request. You can use the letter to say that you expect to be a beneficiary and you want to verify your status, etc.

      She might accede to the request. If she does not, the only real recourse you have left is to take her to court to ask the judge to compel the step-mother to give you a copy. You may or may not win, but given the circumstances, you have a pretty good chance. If you win, the judge will order that your step-mother pay legal costs for you, something that you might want to talk about in your letter.

      Best of luck,
      Lynne

      Delete
  26. my brother one of twins in the family he was the excutive. i never was told or any thing im the oidest son 2 twiin brothers and one sister.no one got a copy of a will if there was but he handled everything i no there was a will my mother died 2010 and my retired dad from the army passed away 1998 my sister tells me my brother took everything there was some little bit of land a small house what do i do he is hiding somthing my mom and dad lived in Nova scotia im not realy clear as what took place im not that close to them because some thing or what is not right what do i do to find out i have no money for a leagle rep;; i live in ontario sault ste marie. do i have any rights and how will i know when my brother is a scumbag for sure can he just not tell us and whats our rights i can't beleave this please help .

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  27. hello lynne; we have a fractured family. i am the only caregiver for my 91 year-old mother. we live in bc. after my mom passes my mom would like to leave me the use of her home until my death and then have her home sold with proceeds going to a hospital in bc. she does not wish her other children (x2) who have been verbally abusive, tried to have her put away against her will and/or (x1)abandoned her for over 30 years to have anything of hers. Are you able to offer some guidance. Thx so much. Love your blog

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hello,

    My sister is the executor of my dad's will who just passed couple weeks ago she's also the power of attorney for him. She has been left everything 50% of a house 50% of a business. My grandmother owns the other 50% of the business and the house. My mom who has been married to him for 38 years was left no shares of the company and she worked in the company for 20 years and no percent of the house. There's three children that got nothing as well. My sister in our opinion abused her rights and got my dad to ilegally sign who was deathly ill one week before he passed away of cancer to sign over a truck and a trailer to save assets and get them put in her name is that legal for a power of attorney a daughter and now a business owner to do that? Do we as a family have legal grounds to contest this will cuz in our opinion the will was manipulated by my sister in order for her to receive the house the business and all personal assets that have any value

    We live in BC
    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  29. My uncle passed away in BC, two people in the Will not his children. These adults are in their 60's. Unknown where in the world they live. Estranged for over 30 years now how do we proceed with probate? Thx.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi G and D,
      I would list them as being missing beneficiaries. The whole probate goes through as usual except that you will probably deposit their shares with the Office of the Public Trustee to hold onto in case they show up one day. Give the Public Trustee a call and chat about this with them.

      Lynne

      Delete
  30. I will be executor and sole beneficiary of my husband's estate. He has adult independent children from his previous marriage. He suggests I need not even notify if/when he dies. Do I have a legal obligation to notify them if they are not beneficiaries?

    ReplyDelete
  31. I have a different question... my estranged father passed away 10 days ago without a will. I, as next of kin was not notified until 4 days ago. In the meantime a "friend" of his had his body moved to a funeral home for cremation, body cremated, ashes given to someone we don't know, cleaned out his apartment... and THEN contacted me. This friend of his stated they are paying for his cremation etc. out of his bank account. What I would like to know is HOW did this person get authorization to do all this without next of kin say-so? I have called hospital, social worker, funeral home and bank and no one will tell me how this "friend" of his was able to accomplish all this when I AM next of kin. He left no will and did not appoint anyone as executor. Even the jewellry he was wearing in the hospital is gone. Something about this stinks. He had no spouse, only us 3 grown up children, I am the eldest. Thank you so much for any sort of guideance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are the other two children estranged from him as well? You said that YOU are estranged but not the others. Perhaps they gave permission.

      You seem to be under the impression that as next of kin you have a whole host of legal rights. You might be surprised. Nobody is obligated even to tell you that he passed away.

      You are complaining that the ashes were given to someone you don't know but since you were estranged, why would you even expect to know your father's friends? Were you under the impression that he would sit alone in his room forever because you weren't around? In the absence of family, many people form strong friendships.

      I assume that the funeral was arranged by the friend, and as such the funeral home billed him/her directly. Since the friend is their client - not you - that makes sense. The people who were close to him in life looked after his death.

      The payment of the bill was done because the person who arranged the funeral took the invoice to your father's bank and asked them to pay the funeral home directly. That is done every day and there is nothing unusual about it. The banks and funeral homes do this so that the person can be buried and the funeral home can be paid even when there is no family around to take care of things.

      Why are you so outraged? Your father was lucky that he had someone who cared enough about him to take on these tasks.

      As for being appointed as administrator of the estate, that IS something that requires next of kin consent. Whoever is appointed will have the legal right to look into things such as missing jewelry. That person will also be able to review your father's bank account.

      Lynne

      Delete
  32. Thank you Lynne for your response, perhaps I didn't give enough detail and perhaps you were trying to give me a healthy dose of reality to keep me grounded :-)

    Of course I don't expect anyone to sit alone and never make friends nor did I complain about his ashes being given away, although I do know for fact he wanted to be "taken" to Australia and scattered there. Nor am I outraged that someone took the time to arrange cremation, luckily that IS what he wanted but as far as her being close, well none of his other friends knew about her and according to her only came to visit Manitoba once a year or so. His friends have all stated that they felt "wierd" about the whole thing.

    I say "estranged" but it's a cold word for "we weren't that close". No, siblings weren't close to my father either and neither are we to each other. Maybe no one was obligated to tell me, as you say, that my father passed away, however, the person that just happened to be in town visiting upon this discovery conveniently told the hospital she admitted him into that there was no next of kin... I am assuming that is how she was able to deal with the funeral home etc. I left my contact details with the hospital and funeral home to no avail. Do hospitals really not check? What if I was out of town?

    The friend did eventually call me 10 days later and one hour before she had to leave Manitoba to go back home to Ontario. She said that I could come by his apartment to see if there was anything I wanted. I answered that yes I could be there in 15 minutes but wasn't interested in monetary gain, just his birth certificate, passport etc. for my genealogy purposes. Good thing, as when I arrived at the apartment 1-800 Junk was just closing the door on the last load out and there was nothing left. In a garbage bag I found photocopy of an old bank account and copy of expired passport and a few photos. It was at this point she said she knew of us "kids" when we were younger but it was easier to tell hospital that we didn't exist. I have since talked to a few of his friends who don't know her either. As I said something stinks. And how is it that this person is entitled to clean out his stuff and settle his estate without a will or naming any executors or beneficeries?

    Maybe I'm getting bad advice but I am being told as next of kin to apply for Letter of Administration, and in Manitoba the law is that the applicant must be a resident of Manitoba (not Ontario).

    Respectfully

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  33. Province Ontario. My mother has been struggling with mental illness for years. We didn't always see eye to eye. She was paranoid at the end and imagine things that didn't happen. Police were called several times with a result that her complaint were never valid. The police at one point told her that is she is mad at (me) her daughter to deal with it head on as she can't continue to contact them to try and get even. I am the only biological child with 3 half sisters. My step father was notifed by CRA of her passing. None of us were notifed of her passing. The police several times asked me if she was mentally stable to take care of herself. When my grandparents passed the will stated things were to be equally split between the two of us...but my mother ended up stealing a portion of the inheritance. There are far more instances with her...too much to write. What are my legal rights here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Legal rights in what respect? What is it you want to do? Are you asking about your grandparents' estates or your mother's estate? Lots of back story here but not much about your current goal or issue.

      Lynne

      Delete
  34. Maybe someone on her can help me my father passed in 2019 he was in the Canadian forces he separated as far as I'm concerned. He had own condo as well was paid mortgage on house. Left no will. I can obtain copies of his payments and rent to the condo. There was no probate filed left no will no executor and she claimed common law. Recieved lump sum of 387000 from veteran affairs pensions and disability he has 5 surviving children and 3 grandchildren we ss kids and grandkids have not recieved a penny she continues to live in house drive his cars (with veteran plates) and continues to say no will and left nothing. Opinions and advice would greatly be appreciated

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If your father died without a will and his CL received a house and condo, there are very few possibilities for how she accomplished that. One is that she applied to the court for letters of administration. The other is that the properties were held in joint names between her and your father, and she received them as a surviving joint owner. It's worth doing a search at the land titles office in his province to determine whose name is on the titles now and who was on them when he died.

      You mentioned that your father was separated "as far as you're concerned". This could be an important point but it depends on a lot of factors. One is the province in which your father lived. Some provinces give common law spouses the same rights as married spouses and some don't. And if they weren't living together, maybe they weren't even common law - this might be a dispute but would depend on things like how long they had lived apart, whether any new partners were in the picture, any intention to reconcile, any division of household property, etc.

      Please keep in mind that if his children are adults, they are not automatically entitled to anything. And unless his grandkids were financially dependent upon him, they have no automatic claim either. So in my view, any argument on this case would be about whether she has rights, not whether the kids have rights.

      I think it would be worthwhile to look into this more closely, and to do so before assets are sold or spent. I expect you'll have to hire a lawyer since your informal enquiries haven't had much result. A lawyer could write to her to find out details about the assets. Maybe nothing will come of it. Your father might have added her as a joint owner on everything. And with the pension, that goes to the spouse if she is a spouse. Your lawyer could raise the issue of a separation and see what she comes back with.

      It's not going to be easy but it seems to me that you need answers for your peace of mind. I hope it goes well.

      Lynne

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  35. Hi..im trying to get a copy of my moms will..and my sister will not give give me the name of the lawyer that dealt with the three of us at that time I'm just trying to find out if my sister ran away with insurance money to the other side of Canada will these papers be attached to the will to

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if your sister gave you the name of the lawyer, you would probably find that the lawyer would not give you information. We can't just tell people our client's private business, even after the client has passed away.

      Do you know anything more about the insurance policy? I ask this because there might not be anything in the will about the policy. Most of the time, an insurance policy names a beneficiary and therefore is not included in the estate that is covered by the will. At least if you knew which company it was with, for example, you might be able to find out something.

      If your Mom owned real estate or a substantial bank account, check the probate court nearest where your Mom lived to see whether a will was filed there. It's worth a shot. But keep in mind it might not help you as much as you'd like.

      Lynne

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  36. Hello, just wanted a second opinion. Here's the back story....My siblings (and their children) have not been in contact with or inquired about our mother for over 10 years, some of them decades, some even longer. This mainly all started after our father passed away many years ago. My mother's last attempt to contact them was inviting them for Christmas many years ago by mailing them invitations. She had tried to contact one of them by telephone (the only number she knew at the time). She never got a response or even a 'no thank you'. I knew that they had received the invitations because I was in contact with them at the time. I got in trouble from one of them for giving our mother their address so she could mail them an invitation for Christmas. My relationships with my siblings have broken down since then. This has caused me a tremendous amount of pain. I also have since lost a lot of respect for all of them because of the way they are treating my mother. My mother does not deserve this treatment & it is not justified. My father even made me promise to look after my mom after he dies (sadly, on his deathbed). There has always been a lot of false pride, ego, gossip, backstabbing & infighting amongst my siblings. These same siblings did not talk to each other off & on for years at a time (they may not be talking now, for all I know). After these failed attempts to renew a relationship with her children, my mother decided that she can no longer rely on any of them. My husband and I and our children are the only ones that she has to look after her in her senior years. A few years ago she made a new will and named me executor and the sole beneficiary of her estate. She also named my children as beneficiaries if I pre-decease her. She also put me as joint tenancy on her house and has all her bank accounts as joint accounts with me. Any registered accounts under her name, she has made me the sole beneficiary and letters have been given to the bank. She did most of this (the will & joint tenancy) without me knowing at the time through a lawyer. I became aware of this when she asked me to go see her lawyer with her & I signed some papers. She also named me her sole enduring power of attorney. I did know about that part & the joint accounts ahead of time as she had had one of my siblings & me as joint powers of attorney many years ago, but my mother & I agreed that she couldn't rely on my sibling to share responsibilities with me. My mother has told me not to inform any of them if or when she goes into a care home. She is starting now to develop the early stages of Alzheimer's disease & does not want any of them coming back into her life & causing drama and/or trying to manipulate her at her most vulnerable. She has also requested that I don't tell them when she passes on. Her lawyer is now retired but I remember him reassuring her that her will (which does mention them by name that she is not leaving anything for them) is ironclad & that her estate will not need to go into probate as everything automatically goes to me through the joint tenancy & bank accounts. My mother was/is very concerned that my siblings would come out of the wood work & make life difficult for me after she dies. My question is....what are my legal obligations to my siblings in regards to informing them when she passes? Also is it true that her estate is not subject to probate? If I don't inform them when she dies, doesn't that give them ammunition to contest the will and/or sue me when they inevitably do find out she died in the long run? I want to do the right thing & also honour my mother's wishes but I also do not want the heartache & stress that would come from one of my sibling or siblings perhaps attacking or threatening me through the courts contesting my mother's decision. I am just now starting to finally heal from the pain of their rejection of me & want to avoid anymore drama. We all live in BC.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Hi Lynne, what happens if my sister has placed all or most of my mother's money into a joint account and is claiming there is very little money left in my mother's estate? She was my mother's POA and is executor of her will, so we cannot see any of the records unless she provides them to us, which she is not. Does she have to provide us with an account of my mom's finances over the past year? Can she get away with keeping all of my mom's money because it is in a joint account?

    Thank you for creating this blog and helping people like me get some answers.

    ReplyDelete
  38. My mother passed away recently I was not notified by my Uncle who was there and who is executor of the will of her passing for five days. He used this time to deny me my chance to say goodbye to by mom by cremating her and deciding to keep her ashes on his shelf hes told me I was suddenly disinherited buy that I am somehow still getting some sort of insurance from her work. Every question I have asked has been met with "no" or I'm not telling.

    As for the changes of the will. I have no idea this would have been notarized correctly as my mother was immobile and could not leave her home for months before her death by herself, she had no fax machine either.

    I don't really care about the inheritance at all. I just want to know what is going on. I asked for the name of mothers lawyer and in he basically told me to fuck myself. People are disgusting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joy,
      I'm so sorry to hear what you're going through, and I have to agree that some people are really just disgusting.

      Here's my initial thought. If everything your uncle is doing is right and above board, there is no reason in the world for him to be so defensive and cruel. In my experience, people who bully that hard for no reason are trying to scare people off.

      Right now, things are upsetting and raw. Give yourself a bit (but not too much) time to settle. Then think about what you believe to be true. Would your mother have disinherited you? Would she have been able to make a new will? If you simply cannot accept what has happened, I suggest that you hire a lawyer to get a copy of your mother's will. I'm suggesting getting a lawyer because obviously your uncle isn't going to comply otherwise.

      It's possible to get a copy of a will from the court if it is sent for probate, but keep in mind that not all wills go through probate.

      I hope this turns out okay.

      Lynne

      Delete
  39. Lynne, I live in New Brunswick. My Grandpa who was like a father to me just passed away. My Aunt is the executor.
    If you are mentioned or named anywhere in a Will does the executor have to show you the Will?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,
      The short answer is yes, but there is a bit more to it than that.

      If you are getting a specific gift, such as your Grandpa's wristwatch, or a set sum of money such as $1,000, you are only entitled to see the part of the will that describes your gift. Some executors will simply show you the whole will but they don't have to.

      If you are getting a share of the residue of the estate, you are entitled to see the whole will. You are getting a share of the residue if the will says something like "divide my estate among my grandchildren". If this is the case, then you should see the will as well as other estate documents such as the inventory.

      Lynne

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  40. Hi Lynne
    I'm hoping you can advise me. My mother and father married in 1965. Had 3 children. My one brother passed away 1972, I was born 1973. My father walk out on my mother and us. We still had contact with my grandmother ( his mum) till her death in 1987. We lived at the same address where he left us for 12 years. Still no father. They are still legally married. My mother at 73, still files her taxes as "separated".
    I'm 46 now. So I thought I would find him. Well good news, I did but he passed away February 19 2020. I did speak with his best friend, who never knew about my father being married or having kids. He only knows of the woman who claimed to be "Mrs" but my parents never divorced. She had a daughter but no kids with my father. In fact, she passed away 5 yrs ago and her stone reads "Fisher" not my father's name.
    I am in the process of getting am estate lawyer. Could you tell me if I have legal right in this.
    I figure if nothing comes out of this, a least my father at least owes my mother her "Widows pension and his Veterans pension"
    Thank you
    Amie

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    Replies
    1. Hi Amie,
      Something that will have a big effect on your situation is the province your father lived in. This is because the provinces look differently at common law relationships. In some, common law relationships mean nothing at all to inheritance law, and in other places, a common law wife has the same legal status as a married wife.

      Another major factor will be whether your father left a will. If he did, it will determine who gets what (again, within the boundaries of whether a common law wife counts as a wife). If he did not leave a will, intestacy law says that his estate will be divided among his wife and children.

      Now, keep in mind that he may not have had a lot in his estate. This may be because he held assets such as his home and bank account jointly with his common law wife. Obviously I don't know whether he did, but that is the way most people arrange things.

      I think it's worth looking into. As you say, your mother might at the very least be able to access some valuable benefits.

      Lynne

      Delete
  41. Lynne,

    My father passed away this past summer and my mother and father had my children and I in the will for many years. We had a falling out and didnt see each other for the past few years and we were not told when my father passed. Having not been contacted by anyone, is that a certainty that the will was changed?

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    Replies
    1. It's not a certainty, no. If your mother is still alive, most likely your father left his estate to her. That is what happens with most married couples - they leave it all to each other and it only goes to the kids when they are both deceased. In that case, even if his will was NOT changed, there wouldn't be anything going to you.

      It's worth it to check with the court nearest where your father lived to see whether his will was sent to the court for probate. Not all wills go to probate, but if his has been sent in, you can get a copy of it.

      Lynne

      Delete
  42. I was raised to believe a man was my father. When my parents divorced he paid child support to me and my brother. I found out recently I am not his biological child although that is what I have been told my entire life. He passed suddenly and now his sister is taking control of the estate. She has told us his will was on a computer that cannot be accessed and stated according to Ontario law I am not entitled to anything as I found out recently I am not biologically his daughter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sampson,
      If the will mentions you by name to receive something, then you will receive it regardless of whether the man is your father.

      If the will says "to my children" without saying names, you are not automatically included.

      If you were financially dependent on him when he passed, you may qualify for a share of the estate as a dependant.

      It's an interesting case. Sometimes a person who has stood in the place of a parent can be compelled to leave a share of the estate to the child. I haven't researched this lately so I can't say for sure, but it's possible you could be included as one of the children since he supported you and acted as a parent.

      Lynne

      Delete
  43. My husband and his sister were mentioned in their Grandfather's will over 30 years ago. They never received the inheritance which as 1000.00 each for 10 years on the anniversary of his death. This was in Quebec and his mom and her 2 sisters were the executers. The will also left items to his Children and his wife who predeceased him. As we could get the birth and death certificates, the will was sent, but they were told to much time had passed. The Grandfather was a prominent construction company owner and had property 3 lots on the St. Lawrence in Beaconsfield QC.
    His parents moved to Ontario, and his father passed. His mother has not in over 10 years contacted to say that the father died. His sister was told and let him know.
    So are the siblings allowed to see the will, or should they just accept the fact that the parents lied and forget about the mother even after she is gone?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi V,
      Whose will do they want to see? First I thought you meant the grandfather's will, but then I thought maybe you mean the father's will. Then you mentioned forgetting about the mother after she is gone. So, whose will?

      Lynne

      Delete
    2. It would be the fathers will. He was born in the UK, and we have no birth certificate from there. He passed in Ontario Canada.

      Delete
  44. My father passed away December 28th 2020 in ontario. Due to covid lockdowns in Ontario We have not been able have a wake for him. My stepmother when asked about the will told me and my siblings it was not our business and talk to her son. She has Thrown out Almost everything of my father's and sold the house that my father built and told us It was none of our business. I know my father had a will and would not allow this to happen what do I do

    ReplyDelete

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