Can my dad's wife block our inheritance from him?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 25, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad passed away in November 2009. He had a will. He didn't want to be cremated but buried. His wife cremated him anyway. Now she has told us that she will not have the reading of dad's will read to us for our things from him, we are just going to have to wait until she dies.

What can we do, if anything, about this...we're a siblings of 5. She had already told us 5 years ago, when dad was put in a home for Alzheimer's, that all his monies would be gone and we all offered to help her with the answer being flat out no. Any help here would be appreciated. All we want is a little token of something and she won't budge.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

If your dad died in November 2009 and his wife was named the will's executor, then she would legally be required to file his will with the local probate court. This is good news for you. While it may mean that you need to do a little legwork"”go to the local court and possibly pay a same fee for copying the document"”it also means that the will is part of the public record and you are free to see it.

Your father's wife could be right that medical bills might have eaten up many of the funds your father thought or hoped would be available. But if his will mentioned specific items of property that you or your siblings were to take at his death, you are legally entitled to them now.

Getting to see a copy of the will should help clear up the lingering confusion and maybe resentment that you and your siblings now feel. If you discover that your father's wife has shirked her duties either by not filing the will or not distributing the property as directed, consider getting another person to explain these duties to her. If an attorney helped draft your father's will, he or she would be an ideal candidate for this.

And if you can't get your father's wife to listen to reason or to the letter of the law as explained by a local lawyer, then ask the probate court what steps to take. In most areas, beneficiaries can ask for an action to compel the executor to file the will.

Community Answers

Ca-claire answered...

It can depend on which state you are in, and the assets that your Father had. When my husband passed away, he owned no real estate, and had few assets (the house was mine before we got married). I am in California, and I only had to 'lodge' the will with the court, which still makes it a public record. Probate in California only has to be opened if the person had real estate involved, or assets over a certain amount. Sorry that you are having this kind of difficulty at this difficult time.