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Can I sue to get my share of my father's estate?

Sebring, FL |

I recently discovered, by googling my father's name, that he died in 2004. No one notified me. He lived his last years in Washington State, primarily apparently in Seattle. I found his will and his community property agreement, in which he left everything to his wife and kids, except me. I dispute this; I was his first child by his first wife. I was never notified all these years. I have a pdf of both his will and his community property agreement with his third (and last) wife. Can I sue the wife for my share of his estate? I'm living in Florida. I believe I'm entitled to at least some of his estate, being his first child.

Attorney Answers 3


You are out of luck. He left you out of his will which is a person's right and is perfectly legal and enforceable. People can and do disinherit children that have disappointed them or whom they think are already well enough off that they need no further help. From what you say he deliberately left you out of his will. Maybe part of the reason that your father did that is that it reflected in the fact that it would take you 6 years to discover that he was dead. So why do you think you have a right to dispute how he distributed his property to his wife and other children?

But if there were still any right to bring an action challenging the will it would have to be Washington State and it would have to be based on a theory that the will was invalid because your father was incompetent or barely competent and was unduly influenced when he wrote it. I would guess that even if you could prove something like that among your step mother and half siblings, it would cost you a fortune in attorneys fees and costs and travel expenses.

Then there is the problem of the time passage. While there is something in the law called laches which would allow an individual to bring suit years later, it would only be because that person was unable to bring suit within the legal time periods because of some incapacity or other factor beyond their control. Your failure to discover the death of your father for 6 years doesn't sound like a condition that would invoke laches.

Sorry. If it were me I would just move on!

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I certainly agree that, although you may have the right to sue - depending upon the statutory limits in the State - you have to think about the expense of doing so and the likelihood of prevailing. I do not know the laws of Washington State, but in any jurisdiction it is very difficult to set aside a will which has been properly probated, especially with a substantial lapse of time. The assets may have been distributed. Anything held jointly with rights of survivorship are probably not subject to challenge.

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I’m sorry to hear about your loss but it sounded like you did not have a close relationship. Normally if a person in not mentally incompacitated then they have the right have a will and determine there heirs for the most part except in many states you can not leave out your spouse completely. The only advice you should seek is from an attorney who is licensed in Washington where the probate was filed and your father resided. No other attorney can give advices unless they are licensed in that state.
See an elder law attorney since this subject can be complex and other issues are created that you might require further information. My website below may have articles that may further be of interest to you on this subject. If you think this post was helpful, please check the thumbs up (helpful) tab below. Thank you!
My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given by an attorney who agrees to represent you, who reviews the facts of your specific case, who does not have a conflict of interest preventing the representation, and who is licensed as an attorney in the state where the law applies.

Dan W. Armstrong, Attorney
Law Offices of Dan W. Armstrong, P.A.
822 A1A North, Suite 303
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
(O) 904.280.0058, (F) 904.280.0109

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