My best friend has passed away and has left everything to me in his will, does his family have a right to take it?
7 attorney answers
What is Probate?: "Probate" generally refers to the court proceeding required to formalize the transfer of the assets belonging to a deceased person ("decedent") that do not pass directly by law or under the terms of a contract. If the decedent leaves a will, he or she has died "testate", and the executor nominated in the will is appointed by the court, and the estate passes to the beneficiaries named in the will. A person who dies without a will has died "intestate", and his or her estate will be administered by a court-appointed administrator, and that person's assets pass to his or her heirs, who are those designated under state law to inherit the estate.
. A will contest is essentially a form of litigation. The contestant is the plaintiff, and the petitioner for the probate of the will is the defendant. The rules generally applicable to civil litigation also apply to will contests. Each party is allowed to obtain information regarding the other parties' cases, which is done by "discovery" proceedings involving written interrogatories to other parties and the deposition (testimony under oath) of potential witnesses. Ultimately, the validity of the will is determined after an evidentiary hearing, which is like a trial.
A will may be challenged on the basis that the decedent (referred to as the "testator") was not of sufficiently sound mind at the time he or she executed his or her will to enable the decedent to know and to understand what he or she was doing. A will may also be challenged on the basis that its execution was procured through fraud or undue influence. Legal actions and lawsuits where wills are challenged are referred to as "will contests."
The outcome of each case depends on the particular facts involved, and the facts in every case are different. There are some circumstances which may substantially affect the outcome of your case or, even, be outcome determinative. Those circumstances include:
•whether the deceased was incompetent because of a mental or physical condition or medication use;
•whether the change or transfer was the result of the influence of someone on whom the deceased depended;
•whether the deceased was dependent on the person who benefited from the change or transfer;
•the age of the decedent or testator;
•the degree of the dependency of the decedent or testator on another for basic life necessities;
•if a will or beneficiary designation was changed, whether impartial individuals witnessed the decedent or testator make the change;
•whether the change in the will, the change in the beneficiary designation or the transfer was made shortly before the death of the decedent or testator; and/or
•whether the deceased received independent legal advice before making the change, designation or transfer.
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The probate court will have to decide if the Will is valid, which is why you need an experienced probate attorney representing you. The law says that the Will must be filed with the Court within 30 days after the death, so if you haven't done this, I agree you should run to a probate attorney. You may email me for a referral or search here on Avvo using the "Find a Lawyer" search feature. Hope this perspective helps!
If the will is valid on its face--a lawyer can determine that in a couple of minutes--you have the upper hand because will challenges are very hard to make.
Make sure you hire an attorney right away and file the will.
Have the attorney advise the adopted daughters of any wrongdoing.
You will not have any power until you are appointed executor-nor will they.
The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.
I agree with Attorney Gruber. You BADLY need an attorney, right away.
***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!
Run, don't walk, to the nearest probate attorney with the will. Good luck.
Be sure to designate "best answer." If you live in Oregon, you may call me for more detailed advice, 503-650-9662. Please be aware that each answer on this website is based upon the facts, or lack thereof, provided in the question. To be sure you get complete and comprehensive answers, based upon the totality of your situation, contact a local attorney who specializes in the area of law that involves your legal problem. Diane L. Gruber has been practicing law in Oregon for 26 years, specializing in family law, bankruptcy, estate planning and probate. Note: Diane L. Gruber does not represent you until a written fee agreement has been signed by you and Diane L. Gruber, and the fee listed in the agreement has been paid.