can gain access to what my father left behind?
December 3, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

some years back my father was re-married before his death. my father did not have a will in place and i am his only child. after his death the women he married ended contact with me sharing none of my fathers belongings etc. at the time i felt wronged, and as a young man i could not afford legal representation. many years (over ten) have gone by, and i have mostly moved on with my life trying not to think of these events, but there still is a bit of anger inside. as his only child and living blood relation is there any way legally that i can gain access to as much as old photographs, clothing, or whatever small momentos that remain in her custody?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total)
You need to consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. We can't even begin to answer this question given that we don't know what country or state your father lived in or any other pertinent details about your situation. Talk to a lawyer.
posted by decathecting at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

IANAL, and this is probably best put to a lawyer in your your state, but if I were a betting man, I'd be willing to bet that the answer is 'probably not without large amounts of hassle'. Dying without a will is what the probate process is designed for, and it varies state to state. Your best option is to call a lawyer in your area, and likely one versed in inheritance law. The state bar association (if you're in the US) can point you in the right direction.
posted by jquinby at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2011

This depends on where you are, probably a lot. See a lawyer.

However, the items you're referring to are often called "personal effects". Even when children have a right to the deceased's estate, they may not have a right to personal effects, as they automatically go to a spouse. The difficulty in trying to get hold of them is that at this point you neither know what they are, nor their value, nor if they still exist.
posted by Jehan at 12:14 PM on December 3, 2011

Lawyer. It won't take long to get the answers you need. But this is so incredibly jurisdiction-dependant that no one can hope to answer your question here.
posted by smorange at 12:31 PM on December 3, 2011

Have you tried to contact these women to simply ask them if you can have the stuff?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

Like everyone says, when there is no will it totally depends on the jurisdiction. In the places I am familiar with, the spouse gets absolutely everything, from bank accounts to dirty towels. If you're still bothered, I think it's worth a) consulting a lawyer in the correct jurisdiction to find out what rights you have, if any; b) simply asking her.

Be prepared to find out, though, that she has nothing to give you. She may have cleared out a lot of things that don't hold sentimental value to her. If you are not prepared to face that possibility, I'm not sure I'd go down this path.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

The "Get a lawyer" page at the MeFi wiki might be useful.
posted by mediareport at 4:02 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

If the items don't have much value, other than sentimental, why not just contact the women and ask if they have anything of your father's that you could have. His stuff - pictures, pipe, gold retirement watch - might be clutter (to them) sitting in a box in the garage that they'd be happy to give or share with you. If you think there are valuables - jewelry, antiques, collectibles - that would warrant an attorney, but calling an lawyer to get old pictures might be overkill.

I would try to appeal to their sense of decency, sentimentality and simply ask, saying you don't have anything of your father's and you wondered if they have anything of his they'd like to give you or if there are any pictures. Or, and this is kinda weird, if they don't want to give you anything now, could they leave you his things in their will so that his stuff doesn't go to their kids who may not give a fig about your dad's stuff.
posted by shoesietart at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm probably totally wrong, but...

If you are 1000% certain this person willfully kept mementos from you out of spite, I would consider the mementos lost, sit down and write that woman a letter telling her what a fucking selfish mean spirited c&@t she is. Then I would burn that letter and let go of all the anger and regret.

If you think it was some oversight on her part, tho, take a chance and try and get your dad's stuff in a polite manner.

Your best bet might be to go through a third party, because a little shame might make her pony up.

However, since it has been a long time, I'm not sure the stuff is even still in her possession. That's why recommend working through this nagging issue on your own. I know it would be nice to have keepsakes, and I am very sorry for your loss.

Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 7:03 PM on December 3, 2011

An example of why jurisdiction is important: Indiana apparently splits the estate between the spouse and the children.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2011

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