Junior detectives required
April 20, 2005 8:02 PM   Subscribe

How would someone go about finding about the estate and/or will of a relative you just found out died?

I received a package in the mail the other day saying I was listed as the beneficiary on my grandmother's pension fund. The date of death listed was April, 2004. I didn't know she had died. There are a variety of factors involved here, that I won't go into detail about, so here are the basic facts:

#1 - I have reason to believe that I was listed as the sole beneficiary in her will. I was her only close living relative, plus she informed me of this many years ago.

#2 - She was diagnosed with Dementia and Alzheimer's about 3 years before her death.

#3 - Distant relatives took over care of her during her last years, and may have had a new will made. There is no indication that she would have changed her will in sound mind.

#4 - Due to some of the factors involved, I am unable to contact these distant relatives to just ask them directly.

I am in the US on the west coast and they are on the east coast (which is where my grandmother died). I want to find out if there is a way to see what happened to her estate when she died and/or what her will said. I am looking for brainstorming ideas from people of where they would start the process. I do not know her attorney, banker, or nursing home name. I do know the date of death, her social security number, city and state of where she lived and died. I do not have many funds to hire a detective, and am not money-hungry. Curiousity is my driving factor. Anonymous email for those who desire: bollocks AT fastermail DOT com for additional information and/or suggestions. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (4 answers total)
Dead people's estates are managed & disbursed by an executor or executrix (personal representative in California). You want to find out who your grandmother's executor is. I would expect that the executor would have sent you the package about the pension fund, but perhaps it came directly from the pension company. If the latter, the company can probably tell you how to get in touch with the executor. Contact that person; he will have the will (if any) and an obligation to ensure that your grandmother's property is disposed as she directed.
You can probably find more information (including the will, etc) through the probate court. Call the general information number for the court system in the state where your grandmother lived and ask how to go about tracking down your grandmother's probate proceedings. You can probably find what you need with just a name and the date & county of death.
IAAL, but not IAN your L. If you have legal questions, please see an attorney in your area.
posted by spacewrench at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2005

If you suspect that these caretakers may have played some sort of trick on your grandmother and defrauded her into changing her will, speak with an attorney soon. You could challenge the will if this was the case, although an attorney would have a better take on if this is plausible. If they forced her to do so, the court would bar them from taking anything, and might even go back to the previous will. However, if her date of death was in April of last year, you would need to take action immediately. Get a lawyer.
posted by MrZero at 9:10 PM on April 20, 2005

Spacewrench has it right. Contact the Registrar in Probate for the County in the State where she died. Ask to look at the file. Be the biggest pain in the ass for whomever may have been involved until you get the information you are looking for. Hurry up though, this case is getting old. TALK TO AN ATTORNEY.

This is where I admit that I'm a lawyer but I disclaim everything that I just said. I'm fat and ugly too.
posted by greasy_skillet at 10:46 PM on April 20, 2005

When I lost an aunt and uncle, I needed to see the will. They died in Florida. It was a simple matter to contact the probate court there and request a copy of the will. This also led me to the attorney who handled it, and I contacted him. (I was looking for knowledge, not any inheritance).
posted by Goofyy at 12:15 AM on April 21, 2005

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