House, cars...everything has only his name on them. There is a will stating the wife is the sole beneficiary. Does she get everything free and clear? How does she go about getting her name on these things after his passing?
You need to probate the will. When a person dies their assets become part of their estate. No one can act for an estate unless they have been appointed by the court as an exeuctor or administrator (where there is no will). Therefore, the only person that can transfer or sell the property is the court appointed executor or administrator. It would be wise for you to retain an estates attorney in NY to assist you in this complicated and detailed process of estate administration. For an article to give you an idea of the issues involved here please read Estate & Probate Administration: Do Not Try This On Your Own at the following link: http://www.sjfpc.com/page1.html. You should have an estates attorney assist you.
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Mr. Fromm gives you good advice. Since everything was in the decedent's name, chances are that his widow does not currently have access to any funds, or at least not very many.
Since the will leaves everything to the surviving spouse, it is unlikely that there will be a probate contest. An uncontested probate proceeding, in the absence of complicated or difficult issues, can usually be done quite quickly.
And if necessary, preliminary letters testamentary (interim authority until the probate process is completed) can be obtained.
Before you go to a lawyer, gather up all your documents -- the will; a list of all bank accounts, stocks, car titles, deeds to real property, life insurance policies.
After the probate process, all accounts can be liquidated or transferred to the spouse's name.
If you'd like, you may feel free to contact me about this. Although I am a "downstate" lawyer, I have been in court in Erie County three times in the last few months, and just got back from Buffalo late last week. Or, of course, there are many fine lawyers in Erie County.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
Estate Planning Attorney
While I agree with the information both attorneys posted, the wording of the post tells me that the decedent died married to a second wife who was not your mother. As long as there is no prenup. or other document dealing with inheritence by the spouse, she is entitled to inherit as per the will. The executor of the will needs to offer up the will for probate. Then the executor deals with debts and distribution. A spouse has certain rights that others in the family do not. If the question is asking if the decedent's children have any right to inheritance, the answer is not in NY. If I am off the mark, perhaps this information will prove useful to another individual. The executor needs to consult a lawyer to assist with the probate. Any objectants also need to consult with a lawyer.