Q: My grandfather passed in April and I am the only surviving grandchild. No will has been filed with probate.
My grandfather was survived by a spouse, three children and I am the only surviving grandchild. Although my grandfather and I were close, I am estranged from his new spouse. I am also estranged from my father. I have checked with both Lake County and Porter County Courthouses (both where he lived and died), and no will has been filed through probate, which could mean the estate is still unsettled (unlikely as he passed in April), or is it likely an attorney is holding it to ride out a statute of limitations? If there is no will, am I considered an heir even though my grandfather had three surviving children? How can I find out more when other members of the family refuse to communicate or I cannot trust their answers?
There are several possible explanations for why you haven't been contacted about an inheritance. Here are some examples: Granddad left a Will but made no specific provision for you; Granddad left a will but had no property requiring probate (e.g. he owned all of his real estate as a joint tenant with right of survivorship -- leaving behind other joint tenants as the sole owners -- or he left everything in trust for beneficiaries other than you); or he died intestate but you are not an heir at law. On this last point, most states' laws of succession provide for distribution to the decedent's heirs "per stirpes". So if your granddad left living children behind (your father and his siblings), they would be his heirs. You would inherit your father's share only if your father died before your granddad. If your father's siblings died before your granddad but left their own children, their children (your cousins) would be heirs but not you.
You should also expect that your granddad would provide (in his estate planning) primarily for his spouse and his children before making bequests to his grandkids, even though he loved you dearly. Contact an experienced probate lawyer in your granddad's state for more specific information or for possible ways to find out more about your granddad's estate. Good luck.
PS: My comments here are for general information only and are not legal advice about your specific situation. My comments also do not create an attorney-client relationship between us. Contact a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction for specific legal advice.
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