retirement

A will is important after parent's death

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
My father died in Illinois back in 1962. Being the oldest of four children, I was expecting after the recent death of our mother that I would inherit an equal share of the estate. What am I legally entitled to upon her death?

Thank you,
-- Bob Bounty

Dear Bob,
Did your mother die intestate, or without a will? If a will did exist and she chose not to treat her children equally, under most circumstances that would be it. If she died intestate, then it's more likely that you would be treated equally among your siblings, depending whether your late mother remarried.

An attorney is the expert to consult on this, but you've asked for my help. So, I'll do the best I can. You can review her state of residence's intestacy laws to get more information about your potential standing. Surviving spouses and blood relatives are typically beneficiaries under these circumstances.

A will isn't always the deciding factor. Estate planning professor Connie Fontaine taught me that assets are distributed at death, either because of a will, contract or force of law. Your father's estate was likely settled decades ago.

If you understandably feel slighted about the handling of your mother's estate, that's something we can't fix here. My best advice is for you to pay for a few hours of an attorney's time to learn if you have a legitimate claim to the estate.

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