The following assumes that the property is located in California. With that assumption, the first issue is whether either your mother or father had any Estate Planning Documents (i.e. will). If not, then the court may have power to transfer the property through the family hierarchy. The second issue is whether you can petition the Court to determine ownership through a Small Estate (less than $150,000). Please see the link below.
Attorney Richardson has given you good information. However, you need to be aware of some of the complications. If the property was in dad's name alone it may be considered his personal property. If the house is his personal property and he did not have a will or trust then the property would pass one-third to mom and two-thirds to you and your older sister (assuming you do not have more brothers or sisters). Therefore, when you straighten out dad's estate, you are probating a $30,000 estate for Mom assuming she does not have any other assets. There is no time limitations to open probate and the probate of dad's estate may be relatively straightforward. Here is the next concern; unless you agree to pay the attorney outside of the probate, his statutory fees for doing the work on dad's estate may not cover his time and an attorney will be reluctant to assist you in probating the estate (plus court filing fees are about $450 and you will have to publish in the newspaper and give notice to relatives beyond the two daughters. You can usually expect out of pocket expenses of approximately $1,500. Additionally, the person who petitions to administer the estate will have to be bonded. If you feel up to it, I suggest you contact court services for Probate who can assist you to do it yourself. If you have very limited means the court will waive court filing fees. If you do not feel up to doing it yourself, you may have to retain legal help out of your pocket that you and your sister will recover from your inheritance
Nothing contained in the information on this web site is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. This web site is intended for educational purposes only. Michael R. Weinstein, is licensed to practice only before the courts of the State of California, and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Central District and the United States Cou rt of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. No information contained herein is to be considered applicable to legal matters in domestic or foreign jurisdictions outside of the State of California.
Probate dad's estate. It would not likely fall under the small estate rules because the amounts would have been set at the time of death and that was 20 years ago. Once it is transferred to your mother through the probate process you can then transfer it to you and your sister through the small estate procedure. That said, if you want to sell the property it is best to probate both estates at the same time and sell the property through probate. Probate fees are set by statute and come out of the estate, so you will likely only have to come up with the publication and filing fees at this time which would be between $1,500-$2,000. Many attorneys will advance these costs for you under certain circumstances so you could get the process started immediately. Good luck.