02 Apr Tracking down a possible inheritance
Q. I have been estranged from my dad, who I just learned died two years ago. How can I find out if he named me in his will?
A. Even though you were not close, we’re sorry to hear of your loss.
We’re going to assume your dad was a New Jersey resident at the time of his death.
If he was, if an executor or administrator of your father’s estate was appointed, you should have been notified of the appointment as a child of the decedent, regardless of whether you were named as a beneficiary, said Frederick Schoenbrodt, an estate planning attorney with Drinker Biddle & Reath in Florham Park.
“If you’re not sure if you received notice or think you may not have received notice for any reason, you can contact the Surrogate’s Court in the county in which your father resided at the time of his death,” Schoenbrodt said. “Any will submitted for probate would be available to you for your review and information on intestate estates — where a decedent died without a will — should also be available.”
Schoenbrodt said the staff of most surrogate’s courts are very helpful in guiding you through the process. You can find those phone numbers here.
If no proceeding was opened or you’re not sure, you should contact those closest to your father to find out what happened at his death, Schoenbrodt said.
“They may be willing to give you a copy of any documents that governed the disposition of his estate,” he said. “If not, you may want to contact a trust and estate attorney with experience handling estate disputes for assistance in obtaining the necessary information.”
If your father died outside of New Jersey, the process and procedure of the state where he died will govern the process you need to undertake to get the information that you seek. If that’s the case, you should consult with a trust and estate attorney in that jurisdiction, Schoenbrodt said.
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This story was first posted in April 2015.NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.