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Are probate documents filed with the court available to family members? How can I find out what the executor told the court?

Canton, GA |

Mother dies with a will that states that all assets be divided equally between her adult children. One child is the executor. The executor tells the other siblings that the family home (the only significant asset) has a Medicaid lien and will be confiscated so there are no assets to distribute.

Will goes through probate without the other siblings seeing any documents or signing anything. After probate is completed, they find out that there was never a Medicaid lien and the house has been transferred into the name of the executor.

Can one of the siblings get the court records to see how the executor got through probate? To see if signatures were forged? If the sibling is poor and cannot afford a lawyer, is there any way to pursue this?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Not sure if the Medicaid lien info (if it exists) would be in the file in any case, but most of what you seek is publicly available in most probate courts. You can likely obtain the initial information on your own without a lawyer but to pursue a case against the executor you really should have a lawyer.

    This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/


  2. Probate Court files are generally open to the public, so you can access a copy of the filings. However, depending on how the will was drafted, the Probate Court file may not have all the information you are seeking. If the home had a lien, that is public record and can be verified in the real estate records of the County, as well as the facts of the transfer o the house. Your allegations are grave and if documented, would constitute a fraud. I strongly suggest you contact a lawyer who might be able to at least verify facts of the lien and the transfer of the realty pretty quickly and for little cost. Then if the public record supports what you report, you will need a trial lawyer to pursue this. Good luck and act fast.


  3. All you have to do to obtain a copy of the probate court file (assuming it was a Georgia probate court) is call the court and request a copy of the entire file. You will have to pay for it, and you may have to make the request either in person or in writing and include payment up front, but the court can give you the details and how much the cost will be. I agree with Ms. Shaffner, it does sound like there may have been a fraud, if your statements are all correct. I also agree that information about a Medicaid lien should show up in the real estate records for the county where the home was located. If a person believes he or she has been cheated out of a share of an estate, but does not feel he or she can afford an attorney, that person has several options: (1) try to find an attorney who will help on a contingency-fee type basis - this may be difficult for a probate matter but it may not be impossible; (2) try to see if there is any legal aid program or other free or very low cost help available - sometimes there is, and the court may be able to point you to some resources; or (3) try to do things himself or herself. Number 3 is the worst option.

    This answer is not intended to provide you with specific legal advice regarding your situation, or to create any attorney-client relationship. The intent is only to provide general information. You should be aware that you cannot rely on this answer to provide you with any protection against tax penalties. You should always consult your own attorney in order to obtain legal advice.


  4. Copies of the entire file are available to anyone who walks into probate court (50 cents a page). Once you get the file, have a lawyer look it over for you.

    If you find this answer helpful, please mark it here on AVVO as helpful. In answering you, I am attempting to communicate general legal information and am not representing you (and am not your lawyer). Do feel free to call me at 404-768-3509 if you wish to discuss actual representation (the phone call also does not retain counsel; that requires an office visit and appropriate paperwork). In that a forum such as this provides me with limited details and doesn't allow me to review details and documents, it is possible that answers here, while meant to be helpful, may in some cases not be complete or accurate, and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel rather than rely on the answers here. (You can also email my office at geaatl@msn.com . An email also does not retain my office, but can help you get an appointment set if you prefer not to call). I am happy to discuss possible representation with you. Any information in this communication is for discussion purposes only, and is not offered as legal advice. There is no right to rely on the information contained in this communication and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in my answer should be considered as tax-advice. To ensure compliance with IRS Circular 230, any U.S. federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer (i) for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on the recipient or any other taxpayer, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party a partnership or other entity, investment plan, arrangement or other transaction addressed herein. I am also required to advise you, if your question concerns bankruptcy, that the U.S. Congress has designated Ashman Law Office as a debt relief agency that can help people file bankruptcy.

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