Checking The Probate: Information You Might Find With A Probate Lawyer's Help

As an heir who stands to inherit something from your parents' estate, you may be curious about what you will and will not receive. If your parents choose not to share that information with you while they are still alive, it may be possible to have a probate lawyer check the wills for you. Sometimes the lawyer cannot disclose the details of the will so long as the testator (i.e., the owner/creator of the will) is still alive. You may be able to ask your probate lawyer some less-invasive questions that he or she could answer with a simple "yes" or "no," but until your parents pass away you may not know much else about your inheritance. Here are a few things you might be able to learn through your lawyer.

Is the Will an Open Document on Record?

An open document is one that allows just about anybody to read it. It is unlikely that anyone with substantial means, or at least enough means to bequeath it to their heirs, would have an open will on record. However, if your lawyer finds that the will is an open document, you may be able to view a copy of it.

Have You Been Removed from the Will or Specifically Excluded/Disinherited?

If your parents have threatened to disinherit you and remove you from their will, depending on the laws in your state and whether or not your parents would allow another lawyer to look at their wills, you may be able to find out if they have carried out their threats. Otherwise, your lawyer and your parents' lawyer(s) cannot disclose if you are excluded or not, at least not until both of your parents have passed away and cannot contest your investigation into the terms of their wills.

Can You Find out Ahead of Time How Your Parents Have Divided Their Property and Assets?

Since most wills are set up so that final debts owed and funeral costs are paid via the remaining assets of the deceased, it would be nearly impossible to figure out "who gets what" ahead of time. Many parents may share with their adult children about who gets the house, the boat, etc., but financials are entirely different because of the length of life your parents may have and the final bills they leave behind. Additionally, it may not be possible to know how assets are divided since wills can be changed as often as your parents like or feel the need to do so. 

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