Skip to main content

How do I force daughter-in-law to disclose information?

Concord, CA |

My son died 3 months ago, leaving a wife and minor son. He had $750,000 in life insurance that he supposedly left to his son. He and wife were preparing to divorce. Wife was also preparing to file for personal bankruptcy. Wife refuses to identify heirs or beneficiaries. She has not filed a copy of the will or trust at probate court. She asserts everything was left to the trust but claims my son did not have a will!?! She controls all the money without oversight. I can't even prove I am an heir because of her silence. What do I do if I can't prove legal standing as an heir? What is the code section that requires filing a will within 30 days? Does it include filing a trust too? Can someone have a trust without a will? I am just afraid she is going to steal my grandson's $750K.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Unfortunately, without some cooperation from her or her attorney, the only way you're going to get answers to most of your questions would probably be through a court, which may not be possible. Trusts are not filed with a court unless there is litigation. Although a will is supposed to be deposited with the court even if there is no probate, it probably would not answer many of your questions, since it would presumably leave everything to the trust. The trust is what has the distribution provisions.

    Life insurance is paid to a named beneficiary as a matter of contract, and it doesn't typically go through the trust, or through probate, unless there is no beneficiary named that is still alive. A pending divorce normally does not change beneficiary designations, or invalidate wills or trusts until the divorce is final. In California, if a minor is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy of any substantial size the life insurance company will not pay it directly to the parent, but will require the appointment of a court-supervised Guardian. Whoever is appointed Guardian, even if it is the mother, will have to account to the court for his money on a regular basis. In other words, if your grandson is really the benficiary, you will probably eventiually receive notice of a guardianship proceeding.

    Your minor grandson will probably need legal protection through a court-supervised guardianship if he receives assets such as life insurance proceeds, but that applies only if he has money coming to him directly under the terms of the trust or through the life insurance. If she is the sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy and the sole beneficiary of the trust, which is common with married people, there really isn't any legal mechanism available to supervise or control her use of the assets she receives. If she has a lawyer, that person may be willing to answer some of your questions, or at least confirm whether or not either you or your grandson are named as heirs or insurance beneficiaries.


  2. If you want to force the issue with your daughter-in-law, you should petition the court for Guardianship of the Estate of your Grandson. Keep in mind that the mother of the child has priority of appointment for this position(she is entitled to become guardian of the estate before you) but it will bring everything out in the open. Like Mr. Scott stated in his answer, the life insurance beneficiary could simply be your daughter in law and your grandson would receive nothing. You just have to calculate the benefit of bring a petition for Guardianship of the Estate vs the risk of there being no estate at all after you have hired an attorney and gone to court.


  3. If you want to force the issue with your daughter-in-law, you should petition the court for Guardianship of the Estate of your Grandson. Keep in mind that the mother of the child has priority of appointment for this position(she is entitled to become guardian of the estate before you) but it will bring everything out in the open. Like Mr. Scott stated in his answer, the life insurance beneficiary could simply be your daughter in law and your grandson would receive nothing. You just have to calculate the benefit of bring a petition for Guardianship of the Estate vs the risk of there being no estate at all after you have hired an attorney and gone to court.


  4. I agree with Mr. Smith; a guardian of the estate should be appointed for your grandson. I would suggest filing a petition at the same time to compel production of the trust. Contact a knowledgeable probate lawyer who lives in the county where your son lived.

    The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Divorce topics

Top tips from attorneys

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer

Browse all legal topics