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What legal rights do I have to an estranged father's estate?

Seattle, WA |

Father died a few days ago and it is unclear if he left a will, what size of his estate remains, and if there is any legal right I have to any of this. What do I need to do, without hiring a costly lawyer, to find out about the will/trust etc.? My father did not provide any financial support for me throughout my lifetime and we only recently got back in touch prior to his death.

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Attorney answers 5


Very sorry for your loss.

You should contact a local probate attorney to help you walk through all of this.

The first thing to do is go through any paperwork he had to see if you can find an original copy of a Will. If he did not, then his property will pass by intestate succession, which is a little complicated but would mean that as a child you would have a legal right to some or all of his property - regardless of how estranged you were.

Your next move would be determined by the property he had. If there was any real estate, then you definitely need to open a probate. If he did not, then a basic accounting of his assets is required to determine if a small estate affidavit will be sufficient.

Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC


I agree with Attorney Johnson. I do not think that an attorney will be all that costly, under the circumstances, however. And an attorney could really help you to get this all sorted out. I think that should be your starting point. You can check the public records to determine who holds title to the real estate and whether or not a probate estate/Will have been filed with the court. If there is nothing on file and you are the next of kin, (which is not clear from your facts), then you can file to open an estate and be appointed the administrator.

James Frederick

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My colleagues are correct. An attorney is going to be essential to your investigation. If your father left a will, he could have affirmatively disinherited you. If that is the case, you are not likely to receive anything. If he did not leave a will, as an heir, you would be entitled to a portion of the estate, if any, pursuant to the laws of intestate succession.

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Very sorry for your loss.
If you can not find a will quickly-hire an attorney
to start a probate proceeding without a will.
You can make everything happen much quicker by being aggressive
to get the estate opened.
You will also gain power to discover bank account values etc.
The public records will disclose all real estate holdings.

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.


While I don't really disagree with what the other lawyers have written, hiring a lawyer is not a magic bullet. When someone dies, their existing papers and their future mail often is the key to what assets, especially financial accounts which generate periodic statements, they died with. From you have written you may not have access or the ability to access that material.

Real estate holdings are usually public record unless they are concealed with a cryptically named trust. You can probably look to see if your father is the obvious record owner of any real estate in the county in which he lived.

You may be able to go online and see if your father's will was filed or a probate started in the county of his residence. A lawyer in that county will probably be able to do that for you in a minute or two if you can't.

If you are convinced that there are assets to his estate and no probate has been filed you can hire a lawyer to file a probate. IF the lawyer was sure you were an heir the lawyer might well be willing to not ask for fees and costs up front. However, from what you have described, there might ultimately be a will excluding you so probably a lawyer would want up front fees and costs.

It is often difficult to learn all of the assets a person died owning. I wish you the best in your efforts to look into this.