How soon after a death can you inquire about the will?

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Okay, what a minute--if the house was put into a trust, then you avoid probate.
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Esjoholm,
Because of your family's history with fraud about a year ago with your Sil, checking in with the executor now would be a good idea. Except that instead of asking if the will left something for you, approach the subject carefully with the family member saying, something like: "Want to confirm with you that you have the executor role; that my guardianship role is over, and if you need any information I will be glad to help." "After that fiasco with Sil, they may try something, having a fraudulent will or something"

You can do this at anytime. Then ask if there will be a reading of the will, etc.

Do you know if the will has to be probated in the county where she lived?
That would leave the responsible executor very far away, perhaps needing help to file documents, or seeing the attorney in your state.
I am just guessing here, but have heard some executors don't understand it is their duty now.

Sorry for your recent loss Esjoholm.
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I've wondered about this as well. We also had to wait for probate because of the lack of guidance regarding trusts. An elder care attorney or social services should be able to answer or point you in the right direction.
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POA stops at time of death. Your husband must have been executor or administrator. Different states, different laws I guess.
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My hubby was his dad's POA. He began writing checks to cover funeral expenses immediately. (His name was on the checking acct for years prior). I know hubs went and got about 20 certified death certificates (everybody wanted one) and he just got down to business--no probate, no lawyers or courts involved. Just paid bills, closed down accounts, sold his rental property, emptied the house--all just like a check list. He didn't make the final disbursement until we KNEW that all the taxes were paid, the house was sold, the creditors were satisfied...so I'd say it took a year, all told to completely "honor" the will. 90% was done within 6 months.
My parents had trusts, as did my FIL, I don't know about my MIL, but I know she finally made a trust or will, as she didn't realize that NOT having one would be a huge pain for her family. Really, if you have prepared all the documents, I don't see that you ever have to deal with the legal system--UNLESS the estate is worth more than a certain amount and that would vary from state to state. In Utah, it must be over $500,000--since that's about what dad's total estate came to.
As far as "tasteful inquiry"--well, you're the best judge of that! What are the family dynamics? Do you stand to inherit? You don't stand over the grave and discuss this. Hubby had a meeting with his brother and sister while his brother was in town for the funeral. They were all in agreement on everything, so it went smoothly. If you're not the POA, or executor, keep your mouth shut and wait for somebody who has the "power" to let you know. Offer help to do whatever you can to help--but don't look like you're expecting a handout. I agree with Jo Ann, the executor "executes" the will and it will be as he/she feels is in accordance with the deceased. (You can put ANYTHING you want in your will--it does not mean it will just magically happen....the executor has a lot of say and luckily things go smoothly.)
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I think the will is probated in the county the person lived in. The executor named in the will can start probate 9 or 11 days after the death, not before. If no will then probate will assign n administrator. I live in NJ and from the info I have, the executor has 60 days to notify the people mentioned in the will. Doesn't mean they get the inheritance. All debts have to be satisfied before any money is given out. Now I may be wrong, but I think once the will is probated it's public? Just because the executor is suppose to honor the will means they will. If they don't, they can be taken to court.
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Pete, not every estate is subject to probate--at least not in most states. In Indiana, the estate is exempt from probate if the value is less than $50,000. I think a will is still filed with the clerk, however, with a balance sheet showing the value. Assets that are titled jointly or as Transfer on Death or that have a named beneficiary (like life insurance or retirement accounts can have) are not part of the probate estate, so they don't count toward the minimum.
So, while you can't just say, "No probating my estate," you can, in advance, set it up so it won't be required.
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I was under the impression that the executor/personal representative of a will had to be a resident of the same state as the deceased- -true or not? At any rate, it would be a lot easier for the exec if they lived nearby. As freqflyer said, it can be a huge job.
Ellen, if you haven't already, check with your County Clerk to see if the will has been filed for probate; if not, contact the cousin and see if there's a problem you might assist with.
Incidentally, a good estate attorney can help make an estate plan that avoids probate, even for a large estate, thus saving lots of money and avoiding all that inventory job. Even so, will beneficiaries should be notified fairly soon.
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DOES EVERY WILL HAVE TO BE PROBATED? IF NOT HOW DO YOU DECIDE IF YOURs WILL BE OR NOT?
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To add to my post at the top, doing inventory for Probate can become overwhelming, especially of an elder had a house full of things, some valuable, some not.

I was lucky that my Dad's personal possessions were under a Trust and Dad had downsized to an apartment..... if it wasn't I would have needed to find the market value for all his clothes,   all the items in the kitchen,   the value of the furniture,   value of the TV's and radios,   value of pictures on the wall,   value of coin booklets and stamp booklets,   value of expensive glassware my Mom had collected,   value of Dad's car [if he still had one],   value of Dad's house [if he hasn't sold it prior to passing],   value of jewelry, linens,   lamps,   value of Dad's 200 books,   value of all his tools in his workshop,   maybe even rolls of Forever Postage stamps,   the list goes on and on.   It would make anyone want to go running screaming into the night !!

Doing Probate is like having a part-time job, it doesn't stop with just one inventory, some County Probates want an inventory list every month.   Receipts and copies of checks written.   It is so complex, I am having my Dad's Elder Law Attorney clerks do the work, it is worth having the Estate pay for this help.

Thus, tread lightly when asking the Executor of the Estate if you were mentioned in the Will.   You might get a glare that isn't welcoming.
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