My older sister passed away about six months ago.
She always told me that, if anything happened to her, she had taken care of my daughters and me in her will. I think she was talking about the money in a checking account. Her husband of 30 years is also listed on the account, but not as a signer.
So it went to probate. I haven’t seen a copy of her will and her husband claims he knows nothing about it. She said she got her will from her bank, meaning that I guess she went through a third party within her bank as they offer discounts.
He seems to be having a hard time letting go of her money that she wanted someone else to have after she passed. They had no children together. Probate has been going on for a couple of months.
How could I find out if she really had a will? And how long does probate take? I don’t want to rock the boat with her husband, who I love dearly.
In the Dark in Ohio
Dear In the Dark,
It’s a hard balance: remaining on good terms with a person who you believe has hidden or destroyed a will, and pursuing this without rocking the boat. The former is possible by choosing to think the best of him — what if there was no will? — and taking consolation in the knowledge that he made your sister happy while she was alive. The latter is more delicate. It’s often difficult to express your concerns or take decisive action without rocking the boat. It’s often not possible to have it both ways.
People typically store wills in a safe deposit box, with their attorney or bank, or even with the executor. Your sister may or may not have made a will, and she may have misunderstood how much money she had of her own that she could have left to you in a will. Probate can take six to 12 months in Ohio. “Wills should be filed in the probate court as soon as possible after a person’s death. The law provides penalties for withholding or destroying a will,” according to the Ohio State Board Association.
Who inherits the money from your sister’s checking account would depend on the kind of joint account they had together. If your sister was the owner of a joint-tenants-in-common bank account, the balance would be transferred to her estate. If the account was joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the money would go to the co-owner — your brother-in-law — rather than the next of kin of the deceased. She couldn’t leave you marital property, even if she had expressed such a wish.
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