Probate can still be opened if needed. Although if the amount is less than $150,000 then you may be able to transfer the money to you and your sister without probate. You can talk to the financial institution first to see if they are willing to transfer the money. Also, most 401(k) accounts have a beneficiary designation, so if there is a named beneficiary, then probate is not required.
If all else fails, then you need to file to open probate, which you can still do.See question
There really is no public place to go and look for a trust or will. Those are typically private documents until someone dies, and then the may or may not be filed with the court (in California, original Wills are supposed to filed with the court after death, but that does not always happen). Trusts are usually not recorded either. The typical way to find these things is to go through someone's papers at their home and see what you can find. If a they had a lawyer, and you know her or his name, try contacting the lawyer. Lastly, if your grandmother had bank accounts, try looking at her mail since most banks send statements you will find them that way. Finally, you could do an asset search through an asset search company, but that usually costs anywhere from $500 to $1,500, so you would only want to resort to that if nothing else works.
If you cannot find any trust or power of attorney, then your mother will have to file a Conservatorship action here in California and ask to be appointed Conservator of your mother. Once your mother is appointed conservator, then she can take control of your mother's accounts (assuming you can find them of course). It is a bit of a puzzle, but you just have to keep looking.See question
It should not be possible that the Trust will incur $15,000 in costs just by you taking time to review the accounting. That is ridiculous. And yes, if there is a reserve then the costs would come out of that. Keep in mind that once the 180 days pass, you have no ability to challenge the information reported to you in the accounting. So you should take all the time you need to feel comfortable before signing any waiver. You should also be sure you have all the necessary backup documents if there is something you question. For example, it is common to ask for copies of the bank statements to support the beginning inventory numbers listed on Schedule A of the accounting. If there are any expenses that were paid that are not immediately understandable, you should be able to obtain copies of invoices or receipts (or at least cancelled checks) to determine what the expense was for. Those are just a few examples.
Lastly, if you feel the accounting has problems and you are not getting answers, then you have the right to demand that the accounting be filed in court for court approval. That would incur an additional cost, but at times it is worth that cost to get to the bottom of the financial matters.See question
What was the exact name on title? Where you on as a 50% owner as tenants-in-common or as joint tenancy. I'm not sure what the cloud on title was that you are describing. Also, if you did not sign the loan, then there would be no way to enforce your payment of the lien or mortgage. So something is definitely wrong here. But more facts are needed to determine how title was held, who had a loan, the value of the loan versus the value of the property, and who specifically is telling you these things.See question
Sorry to hear about your parents belongings. These are the hardest cases because those items have tremendous, even priceless, value to you, but they are very difficult to track down and recover as part of a court process. And I agree with the previous answer that if the property does not have tangible value, then you will not be able to find a lawyer who will represent you on a contingency basis. What you really need to do is file a petition with the probate court seeking the return of those items, but that can be easier said than done.
Even if you could file in court, you have to be able to prove what property was there, where it went and who took it. That is always hard to prove in court. Plus, the argument you will hear is that "mom and dad wanted me to have this" or "they gave it to me before they died." It becomes a real mess. But if you are determined then I would advice you look up filing a petition under Probate Code section 850 of the code or open a probate, if probate is not already opened, and seek the return of the property in the probate estate. Again, that is all easy for me to say, but it takes a good amount of work.See question
You will need to open the main probate in California where your husband was domiciled at the time of his death. California can control all of the decedent's property wherever located, EXCEPT for real property, which can only be transferred by a Court where the property is located. In this case, that means you will need to open an ancillary probate in Indiana to transfer the Indiana real property under the intestate laws there. So you will have two probates, the main one in California and the ancillary one for real property only in Indiana. You need to find a probate attorney in California and then another one in Indiana. I agree that AVVO is a great place to start to do that. Good luck.See question
You have a unique problem in that it is a Testamentary Trust. That means it was created under a Will. If the probate estate where the Will was administered is now closed (which is sounds like it is), then you cannot now challenge the Trust terms. That is because at the end of the probate process, the Court issues an order finalizing the Estate distribution, creating the Trust terms, and funding the Trust. The time to object to the Trust terms and its creation was before the Court entered its final order creating the Trust and closing probate. You are far too late for that. Probate Code section 16061.7 or .8 do not apply in this situation because that is where a revocable trust becomes irrevocable due to the death of the settlor. That is a living trust situation, not a testamentary trust situation, which is what you have.
Your problem is not so much the no contest clause, but rather the Court's order creating the Trust, which cannot be challenged after it is entered (except by appeal, but that timeframe is long gone).
The bottom line is that you are stuck with what you have. Sorry I can't give you better news.See question
You need to file a Petition to Appoint a Conservator of the person or estate (or both if you want both). In the Petition, you request that the appointment be made as a co-conservator with the living parent.See question
You should never give an original Will to anyone other than the Court. In fact, in California the original Will is required to be lodged with the Court in the County where the decedent resided at the time of death. This is true whether a probate estate is opened or not. The Court then maintains the original forever and everyone else has a copy of the Will.
If I were you, I would lodge the original Will with the Court and provide your brother with a copy of the Will. If he wants to inspect the original Will, he can do so at the Court.
If you have a Trust, rather than a Will, then this does not apply.See question
I agree that an attorney is not mandatory, but it never hurts to make sure things are being done properly.
As for taxes, it is best not to have the Trust pay taxes at all. In most cases, the income can be passed out to the beneficiaries to pay any income tax. Check with your CPA on this. Income tax should be the only tax you are concerned with, unless the estate is worth in excess of $5 million and subject to estate taxes.See question